(Photo by Scott Welton, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Heroic soldiers who sacrifice for our freedoms come from places such as Sikeston, according to the guest speaker for Sikeston's annual Veterans Day ceremony.
"A lot of what I say is based on my experience as a Marine," said Lt. Col. Glenn Schneider, honored guest and speaker for Tuesday's Veterans Day Ceremony at the Sikeston Field House.
He said he would "make an effort to give all veterans their due," however, as regardless of which service they were in, veterans "have a great deal in common" such as "sacrificing our own personal comforts, wants and needs for something bigger than we are."
Sometimes, Schneider said, that sacrifice is just a minor discomfort. He recalled as an example a time when his unit was deployed so far forward that they were receiving only essentials: "ammunition, chow."
Unfortunately, that short list of essentials did not include coffee. "And I have to tell you that Marines live for their coffee," Schneider said, and the best they could come up with at that time was "a hot steaming cup of Country Time Lemonade."
"Other sacrifices cut a little deeper like time away from your family, time where you don't get to watch your kids grow up," Schneider said. "That's time you don't get back, time you've sacrificed for that something bigger than you are."
He also spoke about "the really big sacrifices" such as the loss of a limb, an eye or the ultimate sacrifice of a life by sharing the story of a Marine who described the loss of his leg as a "gift."
"He sees his circumstance as bringing new and inspirational people into his life -- and people he can in turn inspire. That, he says, is the gift," Schneider said. "Where do these guys come from? They're from here. They could be a guy or gal like the one that is sitting right next to you."
"They might be guys that take a very long time to come home," he continued. "Cpl. Mason O. Yarbrough, a Sikeston native, was one of those."
He recalled how Yarbrough joined the Marines in 1941 and lost his life in the Pacific while fighting with Carlson's Raiders but wasn't returned here to be laid to rest until 2000.
Schneider then shared the story of how Marine General P.X. Kelley visited a blinded soldier who, after feeling the four stars on his uniform, scrawled "Semper Fi" on a piece of paper and handed it to him.
"Kelley later said of that time, 'Lord, where do we get such men of courage, such men of dedication, such men of patriotism, such men of pride?' The simple answer, he said, is that we get them from every clime and place, from every race, from every creed, and from every color," Schneider said. "That's where we get these guys."
In closing, Schneider said: "This Veterans Day, take a fresh look at how you live your life. These men and women who swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, to guard the freedom of all of us, deserve our thanks, our admiration and our respect because they give up comfort, safety and even their very lives so that you might live yours without worry of oppression."
The ceremony began with the presentation and posting of colors by the Sikeston National Guard unit.
The Sikeston High School band, choir and orchestra then played the national anthem which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Mike Watson, commander of VFW Post No. 3177, and a prayer of remembrance by the Rev. Ron Spell, pastor of the Wesley United Methodist Church and a U.S. Navy veteran.
After welcoming remarks by Blair Moran, chaplain of the Sikeston American Legion Post No. 114, Steve Taylor, chairman of the Sikeston Veterans Park Committee, noted this is the 90th observance of Veterans Day.
In introducing Schneider, Moran said the medals adorning Schneider's uniform "represent his service and sacrifice."
Following the speaker, the Sikeston High School band, choir and orchestra played patriotic music including the songs for each branch of armed service during which area veterans who served in those services were recognized.
In closing, Tom Austin, past commander of the Sikeston American Legion post, spoke of the significance of the POW/MIA flag's placement on the stage. "We haven't given up on them yet; they just haven't come home -- yet," he said.
The POW/MIA flag was then removed from the state by Sgt. Tyson Glaser who has recently returned from Iraq.
The ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute and Echo Taps to honor soldiers who sacrificed their lives in service to this country.