Staff Photo: Erin Evans
Bill Jarrell, a U.S. Navy veteran, bows his head in prayer at the Veterans Day ceremony held by American Legion Post 32 on the Covington Square on Thursday morning. Jarrell was stationed in Guam for 13 months during his service.
COVINGTON — Veterans, their families and supporters gathered Thursday at the Covington Square on a beautiful, cloudless autumn day to honor all those who have served in the U.S. military.
The annual American Legion Post 32 Veterans Day ceremony featured the presenting of the colors by the Newton High School Junior Marine ROTC, singing of the national anthem, patriotic music performed by the Eastside High School Marching Band and a moving speech by U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bill Love, who shared just how important veterans organizations and supporters are to soldiers.
Love recalled how his unit was deploying back to southwest Asia and the solders were somber until their spirits got an unexpected lift. Having departed from Dobbins Air Force Base, the plane stopped for fuel at an obscure National Guard base in New Hampshire. The soldiers remained on board, considering the stopover as just one more delay in getting back to the desert. But then the president of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post boarded the aircraft and asked Love, the flight commander, if the soldiers would be disembarking, as there were some people outside who wanted to thank them.
"Imagine our surprise when we disembarked the aircraft to find over 350 citizens there to meet us. I am not sure the town even had a population of 350 people, but if they did, they were all at the airfield," Love said. "They provided us food and drinks and arranged for free long distance calls as well as Internet access. They did everything they could to make our short stop as comfortable as possible and tell us ‘Thank you.' The guys in my unit talked about that stop for months. It was truly amazing to see such a large outpouring of support from such a small town."
Love thanked all veterans, past and present, for their service, and gave a special thank you to their family members.
"I know from personal experience that we service members are not the only ones making sacrifices. When we are called upon to deploy, the world does not go on hold and wait for our return. Bills have to be paid, meals have to be made and children still get sick and the after-school activities do not stop. In other words, life goes on with one less person to help out. There is no way to put a price tag on the sacrifices our family members make to keep things going while we are deployed," he said.
Love also thanked all Americans who have not forgotten the importance of the military.
"It is very easy in our fast-paced society to lose focus and take things for granted like the freedom that we have because of veterans like you and guys currently down range," he said. "Freedom is not free and it comes at a price. That is why it is so special to see citizens acknowledging our service members and veterans. It is hard to explain the feeling of pride you get when you are down range and you get an anonymous letter or care package from someone you do not even know. All you do know is that there is someone back in the United States aside from your family who appreciates you and the sacrifice you are making to ensure their freedom and their liberties."