State Representative Dan Caulkins and Atwood Legion Commander Ken Caraway.
By Doris Elmore
Veterans Day is a special holiday to honor the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces and to remember what they sacrificed to keep America great. This year, November 11, 2021 was a little different because of the dedication of the Veterans Memorial at Rajah Memorial Park. The inclement weather made for an abbreviated service, the rain stopped, but the wind gusts didn’t lay making for a chilly and blustery day.
James Reeder Post #770 Atwood American Legion Commander Ken Caraway and the American Legion Auxiliary worked together on the Veterans Day program and dedication. Beverly Obert welcomed the guests and introduced Commander Caraway. He welcomed the veterans and their families in attendance.
Caraway gave a special thanks to Dan Caulkins, State Representative of the 101st District, for agreeing to be the guest speaker for the program. He also thanked Senator Chapin Rose who was in attendance. Thanks was expressed to A-H Principal Kristin Nall, Mrs. Tina Harvey and the A-H Band and K-5 students for all their work in getting ready for the program.
He was very appreciative of everyone who helped in any way in getting the new Veterans Memorial site, Phase 1, ready to dedicate. Pastor Mike Drake led the group in prayer.
The American flag was raised at the new Veterans Memorial by Howard Kamm & Jim McCollum and Bill Fleming led the group in singing the Star-Spangled Banner and later God Bless America. Freedom Is Not Free was read by Annelise Ponder, Mace Stirrett, Solomon Binion and Bella Romine.
The grade school band was unable to be there due to the weather and instruments, but they had recorded “Service Branch Marches” as veterans from their specific branch of the service stood.
Dorothy Clough, Vice President of the American Legion Auxiliary, gave a reading of the POW/MIA Empty Chair as a rose was placed on the chair for each branch of the service.
Representative Caulkins kept his speech very short due to the weather, but was willing to share it with the newspaper. (His speech will follow at the end of this article).
Caraway stated the following in his dedication to the new Veterans Memorial: “In the name of American Legion Post #770, Department of Illinois, The American Legion, I dedicate this memorial. I dedicate it to the memory of those who fell in the service of our country. I dedicate it in the name of those who offered their lives so justice, freedom and democracy might survive to be the victorious ideals of the peoples of the world. The lives of those who have made the supreme sacrifice are glorious before us; their deeds are an inspiration. As they served America in time of war, yielding their last full measure of devotion, may we serve America in time of peace. I dedicate this memorial to them, and with it I dedicate this post to the faithful service of our country and to the preservation of the memory of those who died that liberty might live.”
The program closed with taps being played by Anna Rawlins, Owen Herring and Cassidy Rohacs. Despite the rain puddles, mud and wind, like the weather our men and women have endured fighting for our country, the program was an inspiration to all.
A luncheon was served to the veterans and guests at the American Legion Home by the auxiliary.
The following is the speech in its entirety by Representative Dan Caulkins:
“Welcome to today’s ceremony and thank you for attending. I’m honored to be speaking with you today on such an important occasion. We’re here today to honor our service members and to remember the sacrifices they have made and the courage it takes to defend honor, duty and country.
The writer Michel de Montaigne once said, “Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul.”
We’re here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication, and to say thank you for their sacrifices. Thinking of the heroes who join us in this group today and those who are here only in spirit, a person can’t help but feel awed by the enormity of what we encounter. We stand in the midst of patriots and the family and friends of those who have nobly served. (He then asked the service members and veterans to stand) Thank you for answering the call to duty. You have made our armed forces the most respected in the world.
(He then asked the family members to stand) We know you have lived through difficult times and often taken the heavy load to keep the home fires burning. Thank you for what you’ve done.
The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities. They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one’s self.
Many of them didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. Many didn’t even volunteer. They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nation’s call because they wanted to protect a nation which has given them, us, so much.
Since the first shots at Lexington and Concord were fired and our Revolutionary War began, American men and women have been answering the nation’s call to duty.
Millions of American have fought and died on battle fields here and abroad to defend our freedoms and way of life. Today our troops continue to make the ultimate sacrifices, and even as we lose troops, more Americans step forward to say I’m ready to serve. They follow in the footsteps of generations of fine Americans.
Veteran’s Day, ordinally called Armistice Day, was originally designated as a day to celebrate the end of World War I. The first World War ended November 11, 1918 and the legislation that created Veterans Day was, and I quote, ‘dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day.’
As time went on and we engaged in further conflicts during World War II and Korea, veteran’s groups lobbied for a change. Rather than honoring the armistice and only those who served in World War I, the holiday would now honor all veterans from every war and conflict the United States had encountered. We’ve honored our troops and their service and sacrifice ever since.
We have awarded medals to many soldiers, added their names to monuments and named buildings for them, to honor them for their bravery. But nothing can ever replace the hole left behind by a fallen service member, and no number of medals and ribbons can comfort the ones left behind.
Today, people throughout the country will gather together to remember, to honor, and to pay gratitude to those who have served our country. Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today and every day. It’s not a lot, but its one small way we can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom.
Your presence here today and that of the people gathering all across America is a tribute to those lost troops and to their families. It is a way to say we remember. From the soldiers who shivered and starved through the winter at Valley Forge to the doughboys crouched in the muddy trenches of France to the platoon who patrolled the hazy jungles of Vietnam and the young man or woman patrolling the mountains of Afghanistan, we remember and honor them all.
Thank you for attending today. God bless you and your families; God bless our troops and God Bless America.”