Veterans, Fort Hood victims honored at Traxler Park ceremony
WCLO's Steve Benton reports on this year's Veterans Day ceremony at Janesville's Traxler Park
JANESVILLE Wednesday’s ceremony was to honor American war veterans, but the focus was on 13 soldiers killed and 31 wounded by a fellow soldier last week at Fort Hood, Texas.
John Solis Jr., Rock County Veterans Service officer, mentioned them before his speech.
“Let us keep these and all veterans in our hearts and prayers,’’ he said.
The flag-folding ceremony was in their honor.
“Today we fold the flag in memory of the 13 men and women who gave their lives at Fort Hood in defense of this country,’’ said Tom Stehura, president of the Janesville Patriotic Society, which sponsored the morning program.
Al Funk, chaplain of American Legion Post 205, included them in his benediction, calling them the “victims of the massacre at Fort Hood.”
Maj. Nidal Hasan is accused of going on a shooting rampage Nov. 6, killing and wounding fellow soldiers at Fort Hood.
About 200 people turned out Wednesday for the 10:30 a.m. program at Veterans Plaza in Traxler Park.
Solis’ message, taken from this year’s American Legion Veterans Day speech, focused on ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things.
“Simply put, that’s who veterans are,’’ he told the crowd.
“Young and old, rich and poor, black and white and nearly every category in between, they are men and women who served or still serve America. Some have endured great hardships, separation from family and drastically altered lifestyles. Some have experienced the horrors of war. All sacrificed something so that we could enjoy the freedoms we have today. Often their service did not end when they took off the uniform,” he said.
Veterans Day is a special time of reflection for this state’s 427,000 veterans.
The Gazette asked local veterans at the ceremony what Veterans Day means to them:
-- Melvin C. North, 82, Janesville, served in the Navy during World War II—“It’s a real honor and great pleasure for me to be here today to associate with other veterans. It makes me feel good to see the crowd.’’
-- James E. McMillan, 66, Beloit, served in the Army in Vietnam—“It’s celebrating the friends I lost and remembering them on this day. I believe that the individuals who served our country deserve a day of recognition and a pat on the back for what they did during their time of service. I commend Janesville for honoring these people.’’
-- Leo J. Verbrigghe, 76, Janesville, served in the Army in Korea—“I’m very proud of all our soldiers and all our people, everyone I served with. We have a lot of veterans here from all wars. I’m proud of every one of them.’’
-- David Jacobson, 44, Janesville, served in the Army during the Gulf War—“Veterans Day allows me to support the veterans who are missing in action, prisoners of war, the ones who have lost their lives fighting for our country and to also pay respects to the ones living and fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan now and the veterans who have survived World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It helps the community learn more about the veterans. I’m sad to say some people don’t understand what Veterans Day is all about.’’
-- Eric D. Garrett, 24, Janesville, served in the Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom—It means a whole lot and what our freedoms are for. By everybody coming out and celebrating this day, it brings everybody together, even from different conflicts. It’s good to celebrate the day and to have people support you.’’
-- Scott Block, 24, Edgerton, served in the Air Force in Afghanistan—“It’s remembering those who served and died for our country and trying not to let people forget we (veterans) are still around.”