Perhaps the best words to describe the Veterans Day Ceremony at the College of Lake County come from Wayne Maczko's card. "The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten."
Or maybe the James Allen quote etched onto the memorial would be appropriate. "You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor."
Then again, Barbara Oilschlager quoted Maya Angelou's honoring words, "How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes."
CLC's ceremony was held in the C-Wing Auditorium on Nov. 10. It began with a welcome by Darl Drummond, the Vice President of Student Development at CLC. Guest speakers included Barbara Oilschlager, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at CLC; Shalyn Caulley, the President of the Student Government Association; Erik Brown, an Air Force vet and CLC student; and Dorsey Thomas, an Army vet and the Veterans Retention Specialist at CLC. The Navy was well-represented by the Color Guard, the Great Lakes Navy Band and special speaker Captain Steven Bethke, Commanding Officer of Recruit Training Command.
"This is a day of remembrance," Drummond said in her opening remarks.
The colors were posted, and everyone stood while the Navy band played the National Anthem. All over the auditorium, right hands were raised in salute of the colors so many have sacrificed to protect. The crowd, though small, was full of veterans, some displaying their pride visibly, others more subtly.
When Oilschlager took the podium, she thanked the veterans from the bottom of her heart and was quick to point out that our servicemen and women are our heroes.
Caulley had CLC faculty and student veterans stand to be honored. At the end of the ceremony, as the Navy band played each branches respective hymns, the veterans were again asked to stand for recognition when they heard their song.
Brown, who served in the Air Force from 2002-04 shared a story about the first time he was thanked for serving. He and a buddy had been stationed in Afghanistan and were finally on their way home. In Frankfurt, Germany, though, the plane they were supposed to board to get to LA was full, and they were told they would have to wait fourteen hours for the next flight. An elderly couple had spotted the pair, though, who were in uniform and asked if they were American vets. When Brown said they were, the couple gave up their seats for them, saying that the airmen had waited to go home long enough.
Thomas, an Army Sergeant who served from 1995-2001 said that it is an American's duty to convince veterans that we are here to serve them in thanks for their service. He also revealed that suicide is a huge issue among veterans upon their return from war. He suggested finding at least two veterans and shaking their hand and thanking them for what they have done.
Bethke then took the stage with the intent to discuss why men and women serve in the military, to help the audience understand how the United States gains from its veterans, and to thank veterans himself.
"On Veterans Day we come together, and we pay tribute to the men and women who have worn the uniform of the Unites States," Bethke said. "Across the land, this commemorates the patriots who have risked their lives to preserve the liberty of our nation, we commemorate the families who support them, and we commemorate the heroes that are no longer with us."
The speakers were followed up by the placement of a memorial wreath and Taps.
Jim Reynolds, who served in the Navy from 1964-68 and is a resident of Third Lake, played the bugle with the Scarlet Knights, a bugle and drum corps.
"I think these [events] are important because it instills a certain amount of patriotism, and it also allows veterans past and present to know that what they've done is still remembered," Reynolds said.
He plays the bugle 30-40 hours a month for military funerals and memorials. Memorial Day is his busiest time, and he usually has 14 different locations to play at throughout the weekend. For Veterans Day itself, he will be playing in Fox Lake and Kenosha for different ceremonies.
"It's an honor the veterans have earned, and finding a live bugler tends to be difficult," Reynolds said.
Also present was Wayne Maczko, the Veteran's Memorial Monument Task Force Committee Chairman. He served in the Army from 1966-72. He helped raise $70,000 for the Veteran's Memorial, located beside Willow Lake at the CLC campus. It is nearly complete, although still lacking a bronze statue. The committee is trying to raise $40,000 to finish the memorial. For more information about the memorial, please see http://www.clcillinois.edu/vets/.
It's not our weapons or our technology that makes us the most advanced military in the world," Bethke said. "It's the unparalleled spirit, skill, and devotion of our troops."