"Veterans Day is always a very special occasion for it allows us to pay tribute to the men and women of America who put or are now putting duty, honor and country before self," said Joe Frank, a veteran of the Vietnam War and past national commander of The American Legion, in his remarks as keynote speaker for Sikeston's annual Veterans Day ceremony.
With the national and state holiday falling on a Sunday this year, the ceremony was held Friday morning at the Sikeston Senior High School Field House.
"We are blessed, as Americans, to live in a nation gifted with rights and freedoms envied the world over," Frank said. "Those rights and freedoms did not come cheaply."
We live, he said, in "a land of opportunities" with "a bounty of goods and services unmatched in all the world.
Accordingly, he urged those attending the ceremony to "seize this opportunity and offer a heartfelt 'thank you' to America's former soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen for all those years they protected the rich and seamless fabric of freedom woven on the loom of conflict, washed in the blood of patriots, and preserved in times of peace through their fidelity in service to the cause of liberty."
Veterans "are our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our neighbors, and our countrymen across the nation," Frank said. "They are our warriors still missing in action and they are our former prisoners of war finally released to their loved ones. They are our armed forces on the front lines of freedom half a world away and on this Veterans Day, we thank them all."
All veterans, whether they served in war or peacetime, regardless of what branch, are deserving of thanks, he said.
"We need to take a few moments to recognize the men and women who are serving today in active duty military, Guard and Reserve," Frank said. "The sacrifices and accomplishments made by today's generation of patriots, they are many and serve as a reminder that tyranny and evil will never prevail."
Frank asked that we "make it a point not just today, but every day, to thank them for everything they have done and are doing to make this world a safer and more peaceful world to live in."
Recalling how he received letters while serving in Vietnam which he still treasures, he asked listeners to "write a letter, send a little note to someone over there."
Frank also asked legislators to help both veterans in veterans homes and those who are returning from Iraq.
The presentation of the colors by the Sikeston National Guard unit opened the ceremony. This was followed by the National Anthem performed by the Sikeston High School band, choir and orchestra.
The Pledge of Allegiance was then led by Mike Watson, commander of VFW Post No. 3174, and the prayer of remembrance by A.J. Wollenburg of Concordia Lutheran Church.
After welcoming remarks by Blair Moran, chaplain of the Sikeston American Legion Post 114, Steve Taylor, chairman of the Sikeston Veterans Park Committee, reviewed the history of Veterans Day and noted recent additions to Sikeston Veterans Park: the anchor of a World War II destroyer, a memorial to Sikeston's Charlie Company of the 1140th Engineer Battalion of the Missouri Army National Guard, and plaques with historical information about the Harvey Parks Airport where many World War II pilots received their training.
In his introduction of the keynote speaker, Moran said wars are won by men who lose their sight or limbs. Moran said despite the loss of his legs while on a combat mission in Vietnam, Frank has gone on to live a productive life without indulging in self pity.