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Veterans Day ceremony honors the price paid by heroes
new deh vet day main pic
A veteran salutes as the Great Bend High School band plays during the Great Bend Veterans Day celebration Wednesday morning at Veterans Memorial Park. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

A stiff northwest wind blasted over Veterans Memorial Park Wednesday morning causing the old glories along the Avenue of Flags to whip and snap. They stood straight out, as if standing at attention.
That was fitting for it was Veterans Day and below the flags was a community saying thanks to those who have served.
Meanwhile, amidst this fall majesty, a handful of local residents braved the chill to honor those who have and are serving in America’s armed services. It was a time to reflect and pay tribute.
The ceremony started patriotic music performed by the Great Bend High School band.
The color guard then posted the American, POW/MIA and Kansas flags. This was followed by the National Anthem played by the GBHS band and the Pledge of Allegiance.  
“Most Americans profess to truly love our veterans, especially at gatherings like this on Veterans Day and Memorial Day,” said Kat Smades, commander of the Great Bend American Legion Post 180. The legion organized Wednesday’s ceremony.
“While their feelings are usually sincere, it is important to remember that veterans are defending us 365 days a year,” she said. “The heroism that has been demonstrated time and again by veterans from the American Revolution to the Global War on Terrorism is sometimes unnoticed by those of us who enjoy the security that their sacrifice has provided.”
She related the story of Army Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha who, while serving at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan, earned a Medal of Honor. Despite his heroism, Romesha said he felt conflicted.
The joy, he said, comes from recognition of us doing our jobs as soldiers on distant battlefields but is countered by the constant reminder of the loss of comrades.
“Staff Sergeant Romesha’s attitude is not hard to find among the living Medal of Honor recipients,” Smades said. “They will never forget the sacrifice of their friends and neither will the Gold Star families, who will have to cope without the embrace of their loved ones.”
The innocence of their grieving children will be challenged by the dramatic change affecting the balance of security and comfort in their family routine, she said. “The hearts of these families will feel the sharp sting of their loss, leaving them only with memories of their loving mom or dad. Life as they have known it will be much harder from now on.
“Our debt to these heroes can never be re-paid but our gratitude and respect must last forever,” she said.
For many veterans, our nation was important enough to endure long separations from their families, miss the births of their children, freeze in sub-zero temperatures, bake in wild jungles, lose limbs, and, far too often, lose their lives.
Military spouses have had to endure career interruptions, frequent changes of address, and a disproportionate share of parental responsibilities. The toll on children is also great.
“Veterans need each other, but, more importantly, our country needs our veterans,” Smades said. “You cannot fight a war without veterans and while the utopian idea of a society without war is appealing, let us not forget that wars have liberated slaves, stopped genocide and toppled terrorists.”
Those who defend us from our enemies must be supported, she said. We need to serve veterans as well as they serve us – even when the guns have temporarily stopped firing.
“Veterans don’t ask for much. They do not want to be in a ‘special class,’” Smades said. “But benefits are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the financial and human cost of war. And while not all veterans see war, all who served in the military have expressed a willingness to fight if called to.”
We can show your support for these great men and women by hiring a veteran in your workplace, visiting a VA hospital or donating to a veterans program, she said.
Issues like difficulties getting benefits and homelessness need to be resolved. “We can do better. We must do better,” she said.
“Veterans have given us freedom, security and the greatest nation on earth,” Smades said. “It is impossible to put a price on that. We must remember them. We must appreciate them.”
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 the first stone with the names of Barton County veterans was dedicated at the 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 most ceremonies take place at 11 a.m.