Across Monroe County last week, veterans were honored by schools, special restaurant events and dinners to mark Veterans Day. The events were special for the veterans, and their families.
Paul Hibbard, World War II veteran, wanted to prove that age had not diminished his strength.
“Go ahead, grip. Just grip,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. The visitor gripped, and what came next felt like the hands of a giant, with the visitor finally saying he has been bested by the 90-year-old.
Said Hibbard: “Pretty good eh?”
Hibbard was one of 30 or so veterans who attended a ceremony honoring veteran at Paris High School on Monday morning. Students treated veterans to breakfast and special patriotic words and music.
Across Ralls and Monroe counties last week, veterans were honored by schools, special restaurant events and dinners to mark Veterans Day. The events were special for the veterans, and their families.
“This is nice,” said Maurice Lehenbaur, an Army veteran of World War II, at the Veterans Day celebration hosted by Monroe City schools. Lehenbaur and his twin bother entered the Army in the same day.
Veterans gathered to share stories, a meal and accept honors and accolades that eluded many of them over the years, particularly those who served in the Vietnam War.
Here is a rundown of activities:
Students hosted an early-morning breakfast for veterans in the Madison School cafeteria on Friday, followed by a ceremony in the school’s gymnasium. Veterans filled rows of chairs set up in front of the bleachers. The national colors were presented by American Legion Post 221 of Paris.
The art classes of the school created detailed stage decorations, even placing a Missing Man table, also sometimes called the Fallen Comrade Table. It is a place of honor set up at military functions and dining halls in memory of the fallen, missing or imprisoned military members. The ceremonial remembrance originally grew out of the Vietnam War and those missing in action.
Bill Fleming, a retired Marine who also served in the Army during the Korean War was the keynote speaker. Fleming went to Korea with the Army, was wounded and discharged; then he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and went back to Korea. He retired from the Marines in 1973.
He described his military career as “19 years of boredom and seven years of stark terror.” He lauded veterans who sacrificed to serve the country.
“He who volunteered and served, came home, God willing, and came home to live life,” he said. “My father was a Native American. He said a warrior does not belong to himself, but to his people.”
Later in the morning, nearby Holliday School also presented a short program for veterans.
Monroe City Schools
Monroe City High School’s gymnasium was packed on Friday with veterans, ranging from World War II to Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, the entire facility was filled to the rafters with students and visitors.
Members of the student council read the name, rank, military branch and service years for each veteran present, while the band played patriotic music.
“Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner almost 200 years ago and said we are the land of the free and the home of the brave,” said Tracy Bottoms, superintendent of Monroe City Schools, in remarks at the event. “Those words are a true today and they were then,” he added in reference to the years of service veterans gave to the nation.
After the event, the school district treated veterans and their families to refreshments in the high school cafeteria, where many visited recalled their service of yesteryear.
At one table, group of Navy veterans gathered to swap stories and kid each other.
“It’s great to get together like this,” said Krickit Shoemaker, who there with her husband, Kent. Both are retired from the Navy. “And what the students did is special.”
Several students and teachers were featured in a Veterans Day salute at Paris High School early Monday morning, applauding the military service of veterans present – and feeding them a hearty breakfast.
“What you do is more work than we will ever know,” said Emily Vaughn, an eighth-grade student at Paris Junior High.
Said Paris Elementary School sixth-grader Anna Raines: “I am so proud of you. You have given me my freedom, my family freedom and my future family freedom. I respect you know and forever.”
Paris football Head Coach Gary Crusha reminded the audience of the meaning of Veterans Day and what it means to the nation.
“I feel very strongly about veterans and Veterans Day and the sacrifices you have made for our country,” Crusha said. “I’d like to say thanks every veteran for their service in a world where we idolize professional athletes and celebrities. We sometimes forget about what a hero is.”