The community took time to honor veterans on Thursday, Nov. 11 in a Veterans Day ceremony held at the Cottage Grove Armory.
With ample space for attendees to space out during the ceremony, Cottage Grove VFW Post 3473 and American Legion Post 32 helped organize and conduct the event.
The ceremony started off with a 21-gun salute in front of the Armory. Inside, VFW Post Commander Kenn Hunt emceed and commended the improvements to the Armory, which once hosted local National Guardsmen.
“I remember the first time I came here to do one of these was about eight or nine years ago, and it was pretty shoddy. It’s not shoddy anymore,” he said. “It looks really great.”
Hunt recalled when Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day and noted that “they changed it to recognize all the people that are serving and have served. And I can’t emphasize that enough that it’s about them. Not just about the ones that fell in combat. There are an awful lot of vets that sometimes people forget are even there. They sort of disappear.”
He encouraged the community to offer thanks to those who have served.
In his opening prayer, VFW Chaplain Bryan Ducker spoke of the impossibility of measuring a veteran’s worth.
“How do you measure a veteran’s sacrifice? Is it by the numbers of friends and family he left behind? Is it by the month or the years given in service? How do you measure a veteran’s courage? Is it by the number of objectives completed, or by the numbers of bullets dodged, or the missions served? How do you measure veterans honor? Is it by the duty he or she volunteered for or by the number of medals earned?
“The simple truth is that all these things are unmeasurable and it is this country’s debt to all those who have served to pay the price for freedom of this land.”
Mayor Jeff Gowing took the podium to reflect on the new generation of service men and women he has seen.
“Now I’m the old veteran trying to digest reality,” he said. “I’m proud to be a veteran, but I’m more proud that there are many young men and women willing to serve this great nation to ensure that we will remain free. … For all of you that rose your hand and swore that oath, I thank you.”
Hunt then returned to recite a poem:
It is the veteran, not the preacher who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the veteran, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the veteran, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the veteran, not the campus organizer who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the veteran, not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the veteran, not the politician who has given us the right to vote.
It is the veteran, who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag and whose coffin will be draped by the flag.
The keynote speaker this year was District 13 VFW Commander Bob Beck.
Beck served in the Army Reserve from 1975 to 1997. He spent five years in active duty, three of those years in West Germany in one year in Korea.
Beck recounted his life in the military, even looking back fondly upon a float bridge construction operation.
“It was rewarding to watch the tanks roar across. It was mesmerizing,” he said.
He asked the audience to thank their veterans and to use the day to celebrate “their determination, dedication and unwavering patriotism.”
Bookending the ceremony, Boy Scout Troop 140 acted as the color guard, presenting and retiring flags. Lincoln Middle School Choir performed several patriotic songs and other melodies throughout the event.
Chaplain Ducker conducted closing prayers.
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