“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude.“
President Harry S. Truman in an address to the Armed Forces in 1945.
Good morning and thank you to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6791 and its Auxiliary for inviting me to speak on behalf of the community today. I am humbled to be in the presence of so many American heroes, and offer you our deepest thanks for your service to our community and our country. I hope you know just how much you are admired, respected and loved.
Whichever branch of the military you chose to serve in, whichever conflict or war took you from the safety of home and hearth, you did so with courage, strength and a belief that this country was worth fighting for, and we are the grateful recipients. To all the families of our veterans, thank you for supporting the service of your sons, daughters, husbands or wives. You have been, and are, a vital part of the mission.
Many of our veterans could not be here today; some have gone on before us to their eternal resting place. To all of them I say, we will never forget you.
We have an obligation to find ways to keep their memories alive, to teach our children the history of wars fought and the sacrifices that were made in the name of American freedom. Moreover, we need to let our veterans know we understand the price they have paid, and may still be paying, in not only the outward signs of their trauma, but also in those scars that can’t be seen, that live in their hearts and minds. We need to support programs that care for the needs of our veterans and their families upon their return from war.
We must remember that no matter how unpopular war may be, and regardless of political persuasion, our veterans and current military did not question the call to duty, they said yes to serve their country, to protect and defend. We owe them something in return. It’s our duty to stand by them, lift them up and honor their service today and every day.
Our community knows this. Several weeks ago, two individuals came to the City with an idea to pay tribute to West Chicago veterans through a street banner display that is now hanging on Main Street.
The photographs of nineteen heroic West Chicagoans, representing various branches of military and various years of service, were reproduced on custom designed banners, which will be brought out each year in tribute. Thomas E. Tillman, Alton S. Hallett, Charles A. Scheckel, Jr., David L. Russell, Diane Madden Ferguson, Donald L. Smith, Gerardo Serriteno, John Johnston, LaVoy Hensel Schneider, Charles Kaelin, Don Berkes, Donald Earley, Herbert Mertes, James Carter, James P. Colford, Joseph Schweihs, Max Hammond, Richard J. Truitt, and Ramon Bejarano are people who have shaped our country and our world, and who make us proud to be Americans.
More will be added as the program grows in the coming years.
It may be a small gesture compared to their sacrifices, but we hope it will send a powerful message of the way West Chicago feels about its veterans. Already the City has heard from people in California, Minnesota and Tennessee, former West Chicagoans who keep in touch, and who heard about the program. They have called to share their enthusiasm and thanks for this outlet to show gratitude.
We are blessed to have people in our community like Judy Knaak, the resident who brought the idea forward and Alderman Chris Scheckel Dettmann, who worked with City staff to make it happen.
And for people like you, who took time out of your Thursday morning to be here and show our veterans how profoundly they are loved.
Thank you, and may God bless our veterans and those currently serving our country. May God bless West Chicago, and may God bless the United States of America.