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Enduring Freedom Celebration at KC

Kaskaskia College hosted its thirteenth annual Enduring Freedom celebration on Tuesday, November 12 in its Jane Knight Auditorium.  The event was preceded by a pancake breakfast to which all area veterans were invited.

The Enduring Freedom celebration is an occasion to honor all area veterans for their contributions to securing and ensuring the freedoms that all Americans enjoy.  The celebration included a Presentation of Flags by the American Legion Post #1227 from Beckemeyer, IL, which also presented a flag folding ceremony.  Speakers included Roy Aarons, who emceed the event, Robert Gaffner, who gave the invocation, Kristin Williams, who lead the Pledge of Allegiance, and Ken Michaels, who read the poem “Mommy, What is a Veteran?” by Linda Ellis.

The KC Choral group, led by Dr. Sarah Graham, sang the National Anthem and a medley of the official songs from each branch of the United States military.  Audience members and participants were asked to stand as the song from their branch was sung as a moving way to begin the ceremony.

Dr. Jim Underwood, President of KC and a Vietnam veteran, spoke briefly on patriotism, and how it is sometimes embodied by those who are not veterans.  He told the story of Steve Bryant, a student at KC in December of 1969.  According to Dr. Underwood, a group of outside protestors came to KC with the intention of removing the American flag from its pole and burning it to protest the Vietnam war.  Mr. Bryant, seeing what was happening, defended the flag singlehandedly until he was joined by a group of KC students and eventually the sheriff’s department, after which the protestors went on their way without achieving their desired effect.  According to Dr. Underwood, Mr. Bryant’s actions showed true patriotism, and a plaque commemorating the occasion will be placed at the base of the flagpole in the near future.

In keeping with tradition, a roundtable discussion was held, with Mr. Jim Beasley, KC Board member and spearhead of the Veterans Tribute project, leading a discussion with three area World War II veterans.  The veterans, Gilbert Logan of Centralia, Joe Marcum of Centralia, and Warren Peoples of Centralia, spoke of their memories of their involvement in the war, with two speakers, Mr. Logan and Mr. Peoples, involved in different aspects of the battle of Okinawa in the Pacific theater.  Mr. Marcum was involved primarily in the European theater of the war.  Mr. Logan told an amusing story about the great lengths his outfit went to to cook some chickens they procured on Okinawa.  He still remembers that piece of fried chicken, calling it the best he has ever had, not surprising after six straight months of C rations that featured a small can of pork and beans that soldiers flavored with either lemonade powder or chocolate drops.

Mr. Beasley was presented the American flag for his dedication to veteran causes at KC and for his leadership in the Veterans Tribute project.  Mr. Beasley accepted the flag on behalf of all veterans and especially those who have shown support for the Veterans Tribute.

The Veterans Tribute is located on the Kaskaskia College main campus, and is reputed to be the only one of its kind.  A large American eagle sculpture dominates the center of the Warriors Court, a centerpiece surrounded by bronze official seals of the five branches of the American service.  The Warriors Court will be paved with inscribed brick pavers that were purchased through donations.  Each paver is inscribed with the name or a message of the donor’s choice, and paver sales are ongoing to help finance the cost of Phase IA of the Tribute.  Phase IA features the Warriors Court as well as two walls containing the names of over 25,000 area veterans inscribed in black granite.  Further phases of the tribute will contain three more walls and an educational building to highlight the contributions of area veterans.

Dr. Underwood gave closing remarks to the ceremony, and Ken Ingersoll, KC Professor of Criminal Justice, gave the benediction.  Music Professor Cliff Jourdan closed the ceremony with the playing of Taps.

Those interested in the Veterans Tribute project, which is totally funded throu7gh private donations, are asked to visit www.veteranstributeatkc.com for details on the project and ways to contribute.​



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