Columbus pays tribute to veterans at downtown memorial

COLUMBUS, Ind. — On the program, the stated purpose of the Columbus and Bartholomew County Community Veterans Day program is to be “a place to find peace and be with those who gave us peace.”

Members of the Veterans Day Committee that organized Friday’s event have also said it’s not what the speakers say. It’s the emotions and memories in the minds of the audience that matters the most.

During Friday’s 30-minute commemoration at the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans, a number of those who got behind the mic took moments to show what was in their hearts.

“I’m truly not worthy to stand here with these people today but for my father,” the Rev. Wes Jones of the Flintwood Wesleyan Church said before the invocation. “Dad is a 91-year-old living Korean War veteran. I’m so thankful for all of our veterans today.

Master of Ceremonies John Foster recalled his grandfather, who served in World War I, as well as his father and uncle who served in World War II. He also mentioned the pride he feels that his son-in-law served in Iraq.

Foster, who has long been a local radio personality, had his own career in the U.S. Air Force.

In revealing his personal experiences, keynote speaker and former Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong revealed he had never left Bartholomew County before he went into the military and became a soldier in southeast Asia.

“I was called to leave all that I knew to travel across the world to fight for and defend my country in a place called Vietnam,” Armstrong said. “I’ve worn the combat boots, shot at the enemy and held a dying friend.”

Armstrong, who has the distinction of being the longest serving mayor in Columbus (four terms), recalled friends from Bartholomew County that were killed in Vietnam. He described them as “friends of mine who were made forever young in my heart.”

For more on this story, see Saturday’s Republic.