It was a bitter cold, gray fall morning Monday as skiffs of snow and a stiff north wind buffeted Veterans Memorial Park. The rows of star-spangled banners lining the Avenue of Flags snapped in the gusts.
Meanwhile, a handful of local residents braved the chill to honor those who have served and are serving in America’s armed services. It was the Great Bend Veterans Day 2019 ceremony, a time to look back and pay tribute.
The color guard made up of members from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Legion Riders posts then posted the American, POW/MIA, Kansas and organizational flags. This was followed by the “Star-Spangled Banner” played by the Great Bend High School band, the Pledge of Allegiance, the invocation by the Rev. Jerry McCamey and the address by Brandon Kultgen, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3111.
“We can’t begin to imagine the many, many sacrifices these veterans made,” McCamey said. So, it is crucial that those who gave so much be honored.
“For generations, the men and women of America’s armed services have demonstrated their willingness to put country before self, patriots who serve for the greater good and who don’t seek glory or recognition or personal gain,” Kultgen said. “On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, our nation honors the contribution of the nearly 2.2 million veterans living today, and all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of liberty and justice.”
History has provided many examples of this selflessness, he said. “They’ve brought hope, faith and liberty to millions of people around the world. The true number of people who have benefited cannot be calculated and the number of erected memorials or speeches delivered doesn’t begin to represent the true scope of service our nation’s veterans have provided.”
This is not just a day for veterans, he said. It is a day for all Americans, since we all share in the legacy provided by those who have served.
“We must be willing to pick them up when they are down, help point the way to a new life when they return home, and carry them when they are weary,” Kultgen said. “We are obligated to do no less and we are honor-bound to do so.”
The ceremony moved on to patriotic music representing the different branches of the military performed by the Great Bend High School band. And, finally, “Taps,” played by Marc Webster, echoed across the otherwise silent park.
Prior to the gathering at Veterans Memorial Park, Great Bend High School held an assembly to honor veterans. The students prepared musical numbers and other special presentations.
In addition, in the afternoon there was a ceremony at the Barton County Golden Belt Veterans Memorial north of town.
An armistice between the allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of World War I.
This is why Armistice Day, now Veterans Day, is held on Nov. 11, and many ceremonies take place at 11 a.m.
In 1938, Congress passed legislation making Nov. 11 a legal Federal holiday, Armistice Day. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name of the legal holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.