Individuals involved in Veterans Day ceremonies in and around St. Clair this week asked fellow Americans to remember and thank members of the U.S. military who have served or currently serve in the armed forces.
Ceremonies took place at the St. Clair American Legion and at local schools both in St. Clair and Lonedell.
Veterans Day officially was Sunday. Area schools paid tribute on Monday.
“For some, Veterans Day is just another day,” Commander Fred Arflack said during Sunday’s American Legion Post 347 event. “But we need to remember that Veterans Day is a special day. It’s a day to give thanks to veterans no matter how they have served.”
Arflack shared a story about how one day while traveling to the Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., a youth asked him for his autograph.
“That was very touching,” he said. “I thought that that was amazing.”
Arflack said that today fellow Americans need to thank veterans “when you see these guys in the store or on the street.”
“Thank them and welcome them home,” he said. “Give them a welcome they may have never received.”
Also speaking during the ceremony were 9th District American Legion Commander Ray Rolley, Andy Velasco of the Sons of the American Legion, Brian Keller of the Legion Riders and Lois Huff of the Legion Ladies Auxiliary. Chaplain Raymond Bay provided the invocation.
St. Clair Schools
At St. Clair High School, members of the Air Force Junior ROTC program led the gymnasium assembly that included a POW/MIA table and American flag-folding ceremony. The SCHS band and Concert Chorale also performed.
Veterans from all branches of the military were honored and received several ovations at different times during the event.
“Thank you for your commitment. Thank you for your service,” SCHS Principal Kevin Hillman said.
During his brief remarks, Hillman said local students are taught about character with focus on words like honor, teamwork, commitment and service.
“I hope our students understand the importance of this,” Hillman said.
Cadet Capt. Harley Love explained that the white-clothed POW/MIA table is “filled with symbolism.”
“The table is set for our prisoners of war and those missing in action from all wars,” he said. “They are not with us today. Their chairs are empty, but saved for their hopeful return. Let us remember their absence.”
The flag was folded with an explanation of what each fold represents.
“The flag-folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our country was originally founded,” Love said. “... In the armed forces of the United States, at the ceremony of retreat, the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The next morning it is brought out and at the ceremony or reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.”
The flag then was folded from the stripes toward the stars with each of the 13 folds explained.
A veterans’ Power Point presentation concluded the ceremony. It showed area veterans or current members of the armed services.
A ceremony also was conducted on Monday at Edgar Murray Elementary School.
It included a speech from U.S. Air Force Major Leif Johnson, the introduction of other veterans in attendance, a performance by the Honor Choir during a Power Point presentation and the playing of taps as well as a history of it.
The same SCHS JROTC flag-folding ceremony that took place in St. Clair earlier in the day was conducted in the afternoon at Lonedell as part of its Veterans Day recognition.
“I am grateful for your service,” Lonedell Principal Jen Ulrich said to veterans in attendance. “I’m grateful for your sacrifices, and I’m grateful for our freedom.”
Later on, Ulrich continued.
“There are not enough words to express our gratitude to you,” she said. “You are our heroes.”
Two veterans briefly addressed the students and adults in attendance in Lonedell.
Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Edward Herwig, who also is Lonedell R-XIV’s D.A.R.E. officer, also thanked fellow veterans for their service.
“I have a special place in my heart for veterans,” he said.
Veteran Mark Richardson used the exact same words in thanking his fellow veterans, and he shared some Vietnam combat stories with the audience.
“It’s an honor to speak here today,” he said. “It’s an honor to represent veterans in our community at this event.”
Richardson charged all educators and other adults to “teach moral strength” to today’s youth.
“Where do we get these people (servicemen and women)?” he asked. “We get them from schools like this.
Lonedell also gave a video tribute to veterans in the Army, Navy Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. The Belting Bobcat Choir sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and “You Are Our Heroes.” They also led the audience in “America the Beautiful.”
The school’s seventh- and eighth-grade band also performed while area veterans entered and left the gymnasium.