MOUNT VERNON — Veterans deserve to be thanked and honored for their service and nothing we say can be thanks enough, Kevin Henthorn said during the Veterans Day ceremony Sunday on Public Square.
However, the executive director of the Knox County Veterans Office also told the veterans in the crowd: “Your service is not over.”
It is up to veterans, he said, to tell our nation’s youth about the service and sacrifice of veterans from the Revolutionary War to today. They served, and they sacrificed, to preserve the nation’s freedom.
And especially, he said, “tell your own stories.” He illustrated that with stories from his own family, of his grandfather as a crewman on a B-25 Mitchell while with the Marine Corps in the Solomon Islands in World War II and his father’s service with the Marines in Vietnam.
He talked of how the Founders pledged their “lives, fortune and sacred honor” to create a free country, and reminded veterans of the oath they all took when they entered the service and how they can continue to live up to that oath and perform a great service by educating the future generations.
And he told the audience of the cards prepared by elementary students at Columbia School and how, while going through them to pass on to veterans, it struck him that “the kids get it” and how they have never known a time when American soldiers were not at war.
He read a poem expressing the mother’s, child’s and spouse’s fears for their service member in harm’s way, and he quoted from the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln’s second inaugural address.
More than 100 people attended the ceremony, which began promptly at 11 a.m. to commemorate the armistice that ended World War I on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” There was perfect weather for the short ceremony, which included the placement of wreaths by the Gold Star Mothers, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary. The Knox County Joint Veterans Council Honor Guard provided the rifle salute.
More than half of the crowd were clearly veterans, some wearing all or parts of their old uniforms, or the caps and jackets of the various veterans organizations they belong to.
Henthorn said this was the largest crowd he has seen at a service in the eight years he has been involved. Usually, he said, “25 to 30” show up, but it’s also usually during the week when more people have to be at work.
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