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FREEDOM’S GIFT: GB Citizens gather to remember veterans
Veterans Day a chance to honor all who served
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Members of Great Bend American Legion Post 180 carry flags following the Veterans Day Ceremony, Thursday morning at Veterans Memorial Park in Great Bend. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

Flags stretched out proudly on the crisp autumn wind that carried sounds of remembrance, both solemn and celebratory, Thursday morning at Veterans Memorial Park in Great Bend. 

Citizens young and old, many displaying red poppies on their shirts, came out to honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces past and present, who sacrificed for the cause of freedom, as keynote speaker Katharine Piper, Commander of Great Bend American Legion Post 180, reminded the crowd in attendance.

“Veterans Day is on our calendar to reflect upon and revere those who served in uniform, whichever branch chosen, color worn, man or woman,” Piper said. “They have served and upheld our country’s freedom and value, securing our personal choices and the right to make the choices by which we live.”

As members of the Great Bend American Legion Post 180 presented the colors of the United States as well as of the branches of the American Legion, and the black flag of remembrance of Prisoners of War and those Missing In Action, the Great Bend High School Band greeted visitors with patriotic tunes such as “America, the Beautiful,” “My Country Tis of Thee,” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The Rev. Bill Johnson opened the ceremony with an invocation, thanking God for the service of veterans, and the gifts of freedom, and often ultimate sacrifices they gave to their country and its citizens.

“May this be a call to rededication to gratitude and service to God and country,” he prayed.

Following the “Star-Spangled Banner” and Pledge of Allegiance, Piper gave the keynote address, highlighting the gift of freedom, and those who paid the cost to preserve it.

In her message to those in attendance, Piper also called to mind the history of the day, and why it is honored across the world as both Veterans Day and Remembrance Day.

“On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, in 1918, Germany signed the armistice with the allies in a railroad car outside the city of Compiègne, France, bringing the Great War to a close, the one that was to end all wars,” she said.

Piper reminded onlookers that many civilians have also given their lives for the cause of liberty in this and other conflicts, and should also be remembered.

She noted each person present has likely been touched in some way by veterans who sacrificed their own freedoms to preserve the liberties of others. That sacrifice is a gift, she noted

“Each gave their energies, knowledge and talents to make our world a better place in which to live,” Piper said. “Please take the time to think of them today, and if should meet up with one of them, thank them for the gift they gave to you and our country.”

She asked citizens also to remember the veterans who are no longer with us. “As you pass any cemetery decorated with the hundreds of American flags where the veterans now rest, give a nod, smile and say thank you again.”

With bowed heads, the ceremony then closed with the somber notes of “Taps” as the crowd paused honor those who gave their lives in service to the country.