Veterans Day 2021: Navy veteran ‘privileged to serve’

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It wasn’t at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, but other than that one small detail (the event began at 10 a.m. and has for several years), all the checkmarks were there —veterans, American flags, music, the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem, marching bands, a moment of silence and more — as many took the opportunity to remember Veterans Day Thursday, Nov. 11, at the Perryville Square.
The Veterans Day activities began with a short parade from the American Legion to the Square. The Perryville High School Marching Buccaneers closed out the parade and played “God Bless America” when the members arrived on West Sainte Marie Street.
Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021 marked the 103rd remembrance of Veterans Day, which started in 1918 as Armistice Day. It’s been known as Veterans Day since the 1950s and has been celebrated nationwide on Nov. 11 since 1918 other than several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s when it was recognized by the federal government on a Monday in October in an effort to give employees a three-day weekend, similar to Memorial Day, President’s Day and other federal holidays. This was the 100th year the grave of the Unmarked Soldier was recognized, as that tradition started in 1921.
Pastor Frank Lucas of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg provided an opening and concluding prayer for the Nov. 11 commemoration.
“Heavenly Father, bless our gathering today to honor the service of brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way and made extraordinary sacrifices, all for our good, we are forever indebted to them,” he said. “They have secured the freedom and peace that we enjoy every day…it is not only in this service or on this day that we recognize them, but that every morning the sun rises on this free land we owe it to men and women like our veterans to enjoy it.”
“On behalf of the county and the city of Perryville and Perry County, I’d like to welcome all the veterans, their families and friends to this Veterans Day ceremony…Thank you to all the men and women who have served and protected this great country that we live in to make events like this possible…Thank you, and God bless you!”
Art Pistorio, a U.S. Navy veteran who served from 1992-2012, was the featured speaker at last Thursday’s program.
Pistorio began by saying that while the event may seem small, to keep in mind that “thousands or even hundreds of thousands” of similar events were taken place across the nation.
The veterans all set an example of “how to be a good citizens and lead a life of service,” Pistorio said, and this area provides a great example of service.
“Perryville is a place where we honor service, where one man’s generosity, vision and hard work, and the hard work and generosity of the citizens fulfilled a promise (Jim Eddleman) made to his fellow soldiers in raising up a world class veterans memorial in a field.”
In addition, Perryville is also where one mother’s dedication, Amy Hager, to her son’s memory started a foundation that brings service members home to be with their family. It is also a place where the heart of the city is surrounded with banners honoring those serving today, Pistorio said.
“Humility, I think, is an attribute shared by all veterans,” Pistorio said. “For me, Veterans Day is always humbling. I always struggle for a response when people tell me, ‘Thank you for your service.’ I certainly want people to thank veterans for their service…but when someone thanks me it kind of sets me back on my heels. What I did, whatever I did, pales in comparison to service of so many others, including those I served with every day.”
Pistorio often reflects on those he served with who didn’t return home, or were injured during their service.
No matter where the service took place, either in the “oceans and battlefields of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, so many tiny places, and so many corners of the world that we will never know,” Pistorio struggles to think of how he how I can be counted among them.
In his office, Pistorio has a picture of a bald eagle. The image includes a quote about freedom.
“To those that defend it, freedom is a special flavor that the protected will never know,” Pistorio said.
Upon further reflection when thanked for his service, Pistorio said the proper response is that he was privileged to serve.
“It was my privilege,” he said. “It was my privilege to serve alongside such great men and women, and an even greater privilege to be counted among them. It was my privilege to be able to know and savor this freedom that we have today…”
Perry County Clerk Jared Kutz served as the master of ceremonies for the Nov. 11 event.
“We can never say enough about Americana,” Kutz said. “It’s a beautiful fall day, it’s gotten a little chilly which makes it kind of perfect for November. The leaves are falling, and we’re here for a Veterans Day parade in flyover country. I love this stuff. You love this stuff. It’s proven because you’re all here today. I’m appreciative that so many of you have come out here with your family, in particular your young children, to carry this tradition on. One hundred and three years ago, in the 11th hour of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ended. That morning, Allied Forces in Germany signed an armistice agreement in a train near Compiegne, France.”
Kutz continued, on Nov. 11, 1919 the first anniversary of Armistice Day was recognized in the United States.
In 1926, the U.S. Congress approved a resolution commemorating a national observance on Nov. 11. The day became a holiday in 1938. Later, in 1954, the day was changed to Veterans Day. A proclamation was issued by President Dwight Eisenhower in the late 1950s.
“Let us not forget, in the eyes of our Creator, we are all brothers and sisters and with that comes the ideal and the fact that we’re all created equal,” Kutz said. “With equality comes respect for all, regardless of their national creed or color or what they believe.”
Kutz encouraged those in attendance to not fall prey to the constant attacks and insults which have taken place in the nation’s capitol and elsewhere recently.
“…We are friends, neighbors and family and let’s not lose track of that,” Kutz said. “Folks, we have more in common than what separates us, and I believe no matter where one comes from or what their national origin is, I believe our commonality is what makes us special. That we are all Americans, that makes us special. It’s what our brave airmen, sailors and soldiers fought for.”
The Perryville High School Marching Band as well as the St. Vincent High School Marching Band participated in the Nov. 11 ceremony, which also included messages from the leaders of local veterans service organizations.

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