By Nancy Thorner -
The weather was uncertain on Veteran's Day morning in the Village of Lake Bluff, located in northern Lake County, just south of Great Lakes Naval Base. Would rain cause the event to be held inside? As I walked from my home in Lake Bluff to the site of Lake Bluff's Veteran's Day Ceremony at the Gazebo on the Village Green, I felt intermittent raindrops along the way. This concern turned to delight, for when reaching the ceremony site the Lake Forest High School Band, under the direction of Brian O'Connor, was seated in place, and several hundred people were gathered to participate in the event, including students from Lake Bluff's Middle School who had walked the short distance from their school to the village green.
David Cimarrusti, Commander of Lake Bluff‘s American Legion Post 510, welcomed all gathered to Veterans Day 2016 in Lake Bluff and also presented a short history of Veteran's Day. Commander Cimarrusti and Tom Tincher, a Korean War veteran and a member of Lake Bluff Post 510, organized the event. Every year it is sad to observe that the number of Lake Bluff veterans to be honored have decreased. Missed this year through death were Rudy Iberle and Carl Schultz.
It was fitting for the National Anthem to open the program. The Lake Forest High School Band accompanied vocalist Will Johnson, a LFHS student. Later in the program Will Johnson sang America the Beautiful, once again accompanied by the LFHS Band.
Following in its wake was a Flag Raising Ceremony performed this year by LBSA Troop 42; the Pledge of Allegiance led by Kathy O'Hara, President of the Lake Bluff Village Board, who indicated this was Lake Bluff's 150th year of honoring and supporting veterans, and the Invocation by Reverend Michael Nacius, Pastor, The Parish of St. Mary's, Lake Forest.
An unexpected addition to this year's program came from Cathy McKechney, President Lake Bluff History Museum. Cathy read an excerpt from a relative's diary she recently discovered that was written on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, when the guns fell silent over Europe and the "Great War" was over. Her great Uncle Ed Anderson had passed away when Cathy was only four. She fondly remembers him for passing out Cracker Jacks. A wonderful drawing of the shoreline of France appeared above her great uncle's diary entry, which told of the war being over, how bells rang, and of the great enthusiasm that existed for the first time since the beginning of WW I. He predicted his army division would be one of the first ones to be sent back home. It was. Cathy's Great Uncle Ed returned home in March of 1919.
Guest Speaker, Colonel Donovan Phillips
Lake Bluff was fortunate to have as its Guest Speaker for the second year in a row, Col. Donovan Phillips, Director, MEPCOM at Great Lake Naval Base. Col. Phillips, U.S. Army, spent twenty seven years in service to this nation, having enlisted in the army in 1989. He is a graduate of West Point.
In reference to the unpredictable weather conditions earlier in the morning, Col. Phillips, obviously thinking about the veterans seated on the Village Green in front on him, said: "Sunshine is always here, even in its liquid form." When honoring all who participated in Lake Bluff's Veteran's Day Ceremony, Phillips praised the music presented as "keeping in the long tradition of the importance of music in enriching the military."
Col. Phillips honored fallen veterans when he read In Flander's Fields, considered by many the world's most famous war memorial poem. It was composed by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae at the battlefront on May 3, 1915, during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium.
Continuing, Col. Phillips related how in many countries the end of WW I is known as Remembrance Day. Here in the U.S. Armistice Day was established first in 1918 at the end of WW I. After WW II, when honoring vets became the focus, Armistice Day became Veterans Day under President Eisenhower in 1954. Its purpose was to solemnly remember our sacrifices in previous wars and preserve our heritage of freedom. When making the proclamation, Eisenhower must have recalled Normandy when serving as the Allied Commander during WW II.
Col. Phillips spoke of the 17 million living war veterans. All with scars and some with visible scars. Some who were drafted, and some who were not drafted. Some who were welcomed home, others who received only scorn. 1.3 million paid the ultimate price. Their lives were cut short in their prime. They didn't live to celebrate milestones or to be able to contribute to society.
What could possibly merit the sacrifice to serve their country, both the living and the dead?
Col. Phillips used these words by Thomas Jefferson from the Declaration of Independence to clarify why men are willing to serve and even die.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Unalienable rights are given to all human beings by their Creator, which governments are created to protect.
In the words of Patrick Henry: "Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death." -- Patrick Henry, speech to the Virginia Convention, Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775
When we pledge allegiance to the flag, we also pledge allegiance to our Constitution by promising to uphold Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, which Jefferson deemed important to protect and keep this nation from inside and outside forces that seek to destroy it.
Col. Phillips spoke of those who went to war wanting to protect the home front, believing that it would be better for war to be fought over there, rather than over here. It was President Kennedy who said: "Let every nation know that we will pay any price to ensure the survival and defense of liberty."
Hear also the words of Winston Churchill: It's no use saying, "We are doing our best. You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”
Speaking about veterans and our debt to veterans
Veterans are called upon to do what is necessary. Freedom is not a birthright. Every peaceful transition of government ought to be a miracle. Today's veterans have passed the baton on to the next generation, but what debts do we owe our veterans?
- Gratitude: 160,000 veterans have been able to travel to Washington, D.C. to stand in front of the War Memorials through the operation of Honor Flights. It’s a simple yet profound way of saying thank you. Of the 16 million who served in WW II, only half a million survive today.
- Give of self: Sacrifice and serve in your own communities to honor the sacrifice and service of veterans.
- Remember the fallen: Give meaning to their lives by how we live our lives.
All of us have a hand in honoring our vets, their families, and their service. We also have a duty to honor this nation's Constitution so that the ideals of this nation will stand every test and be passed on to future generations.
Following Col. Phillips’ inspiring address, Tayor Brinker, Lake Bluff Middle Student and Student Council Representative, read the Gettysburg Address.
In the reading of the Necrology, it was good to hear there were no war casualties listed for 2013 through 2016.
A Salute to Fallen Comrades by Marine Air Control Group 48 Firing Detail, Commanded by NCOIC SSgt. Mark D. Gaglio, USMC, was followed by Taps and Echo by LFHS Buglers Alex Habjan and Jay Grieve.
A brief announcement by Sally Steine, LB Women Club Vets Committee Chair requesting donations to present another PTSD Service Dog to a needy veteran, ended the official program and ushered in the Wreath Ceremony.
A wreath was placed at the Lake Bluff Veterans Memorial on the Village Green that honors men who left Lake Bluff to serve in wars as far back as the Civil War.