West Frankfort marks Veteran’s Day with downtown service

One of the largest Veteran’s Day crowds in recent memory assembled Monday morning in downtown West Frankfort to honor America’s war veterans. The ceremony at the Veteran’s Memorial/Museum was preceeded an hour earlier by a detail at the monument in one of the traveling graveside programs. The first eye-catching remembrance of those lost in combat, or injured in battle, comes from the concrete doughboy statue bearing the inscription, “Lest we forget.” Ceremonies like this Veteran’s Day program make sure that will never happen.

West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan spoke, with the mayor’s theme being “unity.” Jordan read the lyrics to a song which contained the phrase ” United we stand, divided we fall.” That lyric has been oft repeated in American history, the mayor said. Jordan pointed out how today’s society has fragmented along religious, political, sexual orientation, and other divides. Jordan then said that the military was a good example of the unity that is needed in society today.  The mayor spoke for others there, reminding everyone he is not a veteran, yet has a deep sense of their service in making us a free nation.

As people arrived for the service, some probably noticed a simple, wooden unit located in front of the Doughboy memorial. Led by Drill Sgt. Brad Dunning, the Black Tigers Ceremonial Guard made a stirring presentation to the assembled crowd. Flags from the various branches of the military were presented by the Black Tigers.

Following that, individual Black Tigers made a solemn procession to place items on that wooden shelf. There was a military weapon presented, along with boots, helmets and hats, dogtags and other memorabilia from past wars. Each piece represented a facet of military life: a life that those being remembered gave for our freedom. The presentation brought tears to the eyes of many of those assembled in the morning cold.

West Frankfort native Dunning then asked the crowd to put their hands over their hearts “in a show of respect” for those being honored. He then ordered the veterans, “You will salute the flag.”

It was pointed out that we gather for these few minutes at the same time each year to honor those who have made a sacrifice so that we remain free. Since World War I, over one million soldiers have died, and another 1.5 million have been wounded.

Following the outdoor ceremony, a public reception was hosted by the West Frankfort Veteran’s of Foreign Wars. Names of local veterans who had passed were solemnly read, with a single bell tolling after each name.

— Bruce A. Fasol


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