MOUNT VERNON — A chance to remember and give honor to our local servicemen and women took place in a Veterans Day ceremony Thursday morning at Mount Vernon’s Public Square.
Presiding over the ceremony was Jim Drake, Commander of Mount Vernon Post 4027 Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“We have gathered here on the 11th month, 11th day, at the 11th hour to honor those who were willing to offer their lives in sacrifice for their country, and to remember those who gave of their lives for our freedoms,” said Drake in his opening remarks. The National Anthem was played by the Mount Vernon High School Band, and the Pledge of Allegiance followed, led by Drake.
The crowd then watched in silence as commemorative wreaths were placed at the podium by a member of the Gold Star Mothers and Nancy Vail of the Daughters of the American Revolution. A commemorative poppy cross was also placed by Cindy Rummell, president of the Mount Vernon VFW Women’s Auxiliary.
After the MVHS Band played a medley of Armed Forces themes, Drake introduced Charles Swank as guest speaker for the ceremony. Swank served in the U.S. Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan and received a bronze medal for his service. He is now a member of the Mount Vernon Fire Department, noting that there are 11 veterans in his 39-member department.
With military service always a part of his life, Swank explained how his father was a paratrooper in Vietnam, and that he had two brothers in the service, one in the Air Force and the other in the Army Reserves.
“I’ve always held great respect for all veterans,” said Swank. “But when I became a veteran, it took on a whole new meaning. It gave me a great appreciation of what those before me had been through,” detailing his experiences in 130-degree heat in full body armor.
“When you hear the word veteran, don’t just think of those who served in active duty. But also think of those who answered the call of duty to serve their country in numerous capacities. Don’t forget these people,” said Swank. “To all veterans, may we never forget those who protect our freedoms.”
A 21-rifle salute was given by the Knox County Joint Veterans Council. As Rev. Keith Stuart from First Congregational Church of Christ gave the benediction, Taps was provided by MVHS trumpeter Joe Kasper.
In commenting on Thursday’s ceremony Kerry King, U.S. Army veteran, said “This brings back many memories. There was so much given by so many. And much has been forgotten. I see a lot of familiar faces here, and now I can remember. It helps make a difference.”
“To me this is a celebration,” said Don Baker Sr., Air Force veteran of the Korean Conflict. “We can celebrate those who did come home. We can also celebrate those who did not make it home on Memorial Day.”
“This means a lot. A lot of boys gave up their lives for this country,” said Jim Reed, U.S. Army veteran with the 72nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Division. “They fought for what they believed in and fought under God. God bless them all.”