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Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Veterans are honored for service

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

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Gary Roberts, a Sikeston Senior High School student, plays "Taps."
SIKESTON - The Sikeston High School Field House was filled once again with veterans, students, government officials and other members of the community Tuesday in honor of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces for the annual Veterans' Day Ceremony.

The colors were presented and posted by members of the Sikeston National Guard Unit which received notification Thursday of possible mobilization for the next rotation of U.S. military forces in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Gerald Rogers, commander of the Sikeston VFW Post 3174, led the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a prayer of remembrance by Lt. Commander Gerald Beam, a retired member of the United States Naval Reserve.

In his welcoming remarks, Blair Moran, chaplain of the Sikeston American Legion Post 114, noted that since last year's ceremony, the war in Iraq has resulted in more "young men and women paying the ultimate sacrifice."

Steve Taylor, chairman of the Sikeston Veterans' Park Committee, spoke about Sikeston's Veterans' Park, which was dedicated on Memorial Day 1992 and will soon have a Korean War-era helicopter and pavilion added to existing memorials.

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Greg Blanton
Dr. Joe Blanton, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, introduced the keynote speaker, his nephew Capt. Greg Blanton of the U.S. Marine Corps, but decided against sharing humorous anecdotes of Blanton's youth. He explained that with American troops under fire in Iraq, "it is not a time for levity."

Blanton, the son of Judge Lewis and Barbara Blanton of Sikeston and a 1991 graduate of Sikeston High School who went on to serve in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq after being commissioned into the Marines in 1997, noted the purpose of the ceremony is "to thank our veterans for their service" and that Veterans' Day is "a day we remember their sacrifices."

Whether serving in times of war or peace, those serving in the Armed Forces are important "to guarantee our country will always be free," Capt. Blanton said.

He recalled a Veterans' Day ceremony he watched as a 5-year-old boy. The image of an elderly veteran rushing forward to pick up the American Flag which had been blown over during the event "is clear in my mind to this day," Blanton said.

Having had the opportunity to speak with veterans during his high school years, Blanton recalled that "when I decided to join the Marines, I remembered the stories they told."

In closing, Blanton said: "All who have worn the uniform with honor should be thanked and honored by their country ... for dutiful service in war and peace."

Patriotic music by the Sikeston High School band, choir and orchestra was followed by comments from Tom Austin, past commander of the Sikeston American Legion, on prisoners of war and soldiers still missing in action.

Austin said it is important "to keep the POW/MIA flag flying until we get answers."

The program closed with a 21-gun salute and "Echo Taps" in honor of those American soldiers who paid the ultimate price in service to their country.