Remembering their sacrifice: County residents meet at the memorial for Veterans Day ceremony

More than 200 people turnout out for Friday’s Columbus and Bartholomew County Community Veterans Day program, with many students appearing in the crowd.

Friday’s program was intended to provide “a place to find peace and be with those who gave us peace.”

Members of the Veterans Day Committee have also said in past years that it’s not what the speakers say that matters. It’s the emotions and memories in the minds of the veterans and their families.

“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.”

Jones said his father made him appreciate men and women in the Armed Forces, as well as veterans.

Master of Ceremonies John Foster revealed his grandfather served in World War I, and that both his father and uncle fought in World War II. Foster also told the audience about the pride he feels that his son-in-law served in Iraq. Foster served three years in the U.S. Air Force.

But it was the keynote speaker and former Columbus mayor who revealed the most about himself. Fred Armstrong talked about the fear he felt after leaving his Bartholomew County home for the first time to go to boot camp, eventually finding himself in southeast Asia during the 1960s.

“I was called to leave all 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, I shot at the enemy and …”

Armstrong paused a moment before concluding: “And I have held a dying friend.”

Holding the distinction of being the longest serving mayor in Columbus, Armstrong also recalled friends from Bartholomew County who were killed in southeast Asia. He described them as “friends who were made forever young in my heart.”

The keynote speaker also reminded those in attendance that our military is still active today. Armstrong said they are mostly involved in the non-international conflicts against the Islamic State groups, undertaking air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

“The heroism that has been demonstrated time and time again from the American Revolution to the global war on terrorism is sometimes unnoticed by those of us who enjoy the security that their sacrifice provides,” Armstrong said. “Today, I say the American spirit of service and sacrifice is alive and is well.”

That statement brought an enthusiastic round of applause from several members in the audience.

Ed Davis, who will turn 89 next month, was stationed across a river from Russian forces in Austria during the early days of the Cold War. Davis said he greatly identified with the experiences expressed by the former mayor.

Following the solemn ceremony, Vietnam War veteran Ronald Spurgeon said he was grateful that Armstrong praised family members who are often left financially struggling whenever their spouse or loved one is called to duty.

“Families have to sacrifice on the home front as well,” Spurgeon said.