Dexter D. Harbour American Legion Post 79 and American Legion Auxiliary hosted the annual Veterans Day program Saturday, November 11, at Grant County Civic Center.
Following the flag and gun salute, a hungry crowd formed a long line in anticipation for chili and cinnamon rolls. Soon enough, rows of tables and chairs were filled with people ready to honor and celebrate those who have served and are currently serving our beautiful country.
Once the line made its way through, Silas Rosales delivered the invocation, praying over the room, sharing faith and love for veterans and their families. Students from Harvest Christian Church then formed in front of the stage to perform an emotional tribute song.
Ken Warner welcomed the public and directed their attention to the small table on the left side of the stage referred to as The Missing Man Table. Each item on the table represented a feeling or emotion towards brave men and women who did not make it home from war.
After a brief moment of silence, Warner turned the podium over to Mayor Tim McCauley for the Veterans Day address. McCauley began by thanking the American Legion and Auxiliary and all veterans.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” McCauley quoted Ronald Reagan, “We didn’t pass it onto our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
McCauley cited the Armistice which halted the War to End All Wars.
“Today, we honor all of our veterans who unselfishly placed their lives on the line for our freedom,” said McCauley. “Those men and women were ordinary people until they heard the call of duty and answered it. They left their families, their homes, and their lives — not for recognition or fame, or even the honor we bestow on them today. They fought to protect our country and our way of life. As we honor our veterans and honor their great deeds, let’s also salute those who are currently fighting for our freedom as we speak. I want to thank all of you for taking time to come out and honor al of our veterans. Today, let us walk towards tomorrow still honoring them by living in the freedom they protected. God bless each and every one of you and God bless this great country.”
Warner introduced speaker, Jose Linares, Pastor of Gospel Light Baptist Church. Linares spoke about how Kansas had a hand in creating Veterans Day.
“As the mayor mentioned, today used to be a day to celebrate only American veterans from World War I,” said Linares. “But, 70 years ago, today, in Emporia, that all changed, and it began a sequence of events that involved four Kansans.”
According to Linares, Alvin King started a movement to honor his nephew, John Cooper, who had made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as the men who served with Cooper. King approached Kansas Representative Ed Reese in 1953, proposing acknowledgement of all veterans. Reese took the proposal to Congress June 1, 1954, obtaining Dwight D Eisenhower’s signature on a bill (Public Law 380 of the 83rd Congress) to honor all veterans regardless of their time of service on Veterans Day.
Nancy Borthwick, American Legion Auxiliary President, shared a story with those in attendance. She also reminded everyone of the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
“Let’s not make it so solemn that, you know, it’s not a celebration,” said Borthwick. “Memorial Day is let’s be solemn. Now, let’s celebrate the living.”
Borthwick spoke about William Crawford, a “quiet, seemingly unremarkable man” who worked as a janitor for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in the 1970’s. In 1943, Crawford eliminated three enemy positions in Italy, paving the way for his platoon. Amongst the chaos, Crawford’s fellow soldiers thought he had been killed in action.
“They told his superiors of his brave deeds, and he was awarded the medal of honor,” explained Borthwick.
However, Crawford had become a prisoner of war in Germany. Crawford’s father had accepted the medal of honor under the presumption of his death. Once the army became aware of Crawford’s survival, he remained enlisted until 1967 when he retired as a master sergeant. In 1976, Crawford’s anonymity as a janitor ended when a cadet read his name in a book about the invasion of Europe. In 1984, the academy arranged the accommodation from President Ronald Reagan to be awarded the medal of honor. Crawford died in 2000 at 81 years old. He is the only individual from the United States Army to be buried at the United States Air Force Academy with full honors.
“We never know who we will encounter through our lives,” said Borthwick. “This story is to remind each and every one of us to treat every one kind and be respectful because we never know what others have encountered in their lives of what heroes we are in the presence of.”
Before the end of the program, Warner brought Chuck Walters to the stage to shower him in appreciation for upkeeping the veteran crosses at Grant County Cemetery for 35 years. Walters was gifted a custom wood design which said, “Many Many Thanks Chuck”.
Walters passed the torch to Roger Flummerfelt to care for the veteran crosses going forward.
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