By Bill Robinson
Flags flapped and leaves rustled in an autumn breeze Sunday afternoon as past and future veterans, along with their loved ones and other citizens of a grateful nation gathered in Berea’s Memorial Park to honor those who have served their country in uniform.
Veterans present represented each of America’s wars, from War World II through the continuing conflict in Afghanistan, said Jim Lucas, master of ceremonies for the program organized by Berea’s two American Legion posts.
Future veterans were represented by a four-cadet honor guard from Madison Southern High School’s Junior ROTC program that carried the state and national colors for the ceremony. Two MSHS students also sang the “Star Spangled Banner.”
As he has for several years, Berea Mayor Steve Connelly delivered a tribute to those who had served in armed conflict. He also read the names of all those with a Berea place of residence who had fallen in battle from WWI onward and gave a brief history of Memorial Park.
The community gratefully honored those who had kept America “safe and strong in war and peace, often at personal risk and always with sacrifice,” he said.
How should a country and community best honor its veterans, the mayor asked.
“With parades and speeches? With a monument?” With a Memorial Park?”
Those are all appropriate, Connelly said, but he urged his listeners to keep in mind three words: respect, repay and remember.
“The politics that can surround a war must never reduce the esteem in which we hold our returning veterans,” he said.
“We must repay them by trying to serve them as well as they have served their nation,” Connelly continued.
That should take the form of programs devised by government and veterans organizations to assist those who suffer from life-altering physical and emotional wounds, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, he said.
Those take an enormous toll on the veteran as well as his or her family, the mayor noted.
Their fellow citizens also should remember “the good work and sacrifice of veterans” at all times, not just on holidays, he said.
“It is too easy to view national security as someone else’s problems,” the mayor said. “It is too easy to assume that conflict is always far from our shores.”
Such reflection should be as regular as “the nightly prayer we offer to our maker,” he said.
After the mayor concluded his remarks, he was joined by two Vietnam veterans, Charlie Strawser (Navy) and John Jacobs (Air Force) in placing a wreath in front of the monument that bears the names of Bereans who have died in combat since World War I.
Next, a seven-man squad dressed in the distinctive red blazers of the Marine Corps League fired three rifle volleys and another veteran sounded “Taps” on a bugle.
Then those assembled returned to enjoying the free lives won for them by those who had served in wartime.