“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”
With those words from “America, the Beautiful” and many other statements, participants in the 64th annual American Legion Veterans Day service honored veterans and current service members as the heroes in the song.
The event included Don Paschke’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the 47th year, Joe Blair’s recognition of prisoners of war and people missing in action, and a proclamation by Mayor Sharon King, among other things.
“Our veterans are ordinary people asked to do a very extraordinary job,” said American Legion Auxiliary President Judy Hall, before presenting gifts to widows of three local Bataan Death March survivors.
Hall said no one can understand what the Bataan survivors’ experience was like, but everyone can know they had courage.
Bataan survivors’ widows Joy Gardner, Rowena Preuit and Ima Gene McCormick accepted gifts at the service.
“It’s always an enjoyable program,” Gardner said.
Preuit and McCormick also said they liked the event.
Keynote speaker Lemon Dotson of Southside Church of Christ recalled growing up in West Virginia as the son of a World War II veteran. He spoke of thinking a neighbor looked sharp in his uniform, and of viewing the young man’s body after he was killed in Vietnam.
Dotson remembered his eighth-grade trip to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and how the changing of the guard impressed him and made him proud.
“Years later, I’ve been around a number of veterans, and none of them really talk about their experiences,” he said.
However, Dotson said he knew many went through horrendous things.
Dotson said his oldest son has served in the U.S. Army for 12 years, including tours in Bosnia and Iraq.
Those are a few of the things that have instilled in him pride in America and admiration of veterans, Dotson continued.
Dotson recalled the history of the National Anthem, telling the audience how lawyer Francis Scott Key watched for the American flag flying over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during a battle with the British in the War of 1812. The day after the battle, Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“It is the land of the free because of the brave,” Dotson said, naming veterans as the brave. “Once again, I want to say thank-you for your service, and God bless all of our veterans.”