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VETERANS HONORED

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Merriam-Webster describes patriotism as a love for or devotion to one’s country. That patriotism was evident in Hamilton County on Veteran’s Day, from flags waving to quilts of valor given. Songs were sang, stories were shared and the community remembered the significance of why this day matters, why our Veterans matter!

Over 130 flags were displayed at residences and businesses put on by the Rotary Club’s flag program, as well as private individuals who display Old Glory.

The Syracuse school’s annual Veteran’s Day Celebration was held in the McCoy Auditorium and began with local veterans, John Swisher and Rusty Wharton presenting the colors, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a special trumpet solo by Janika Pizarro performing the national anthem. 

In addition to students in grades fifth through twelfth, staff and community members, local veterans and their families attended the celebration. Mark Davis introduced the keynote speaker, 1973 SHS graduate and veteran, Colonel Keith Roberts, U.S. Air Force, Retired. 

After graduating Washburn Law school in May 1980, Roberts received his Air Force Commission through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Program at Washburn. He entered active duty in 1981, and he served 21½ years of active duty. 

Roberts began,  “The day which was chosen when WWI ended, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” 

“I am very proud to be from here,” said Roberts, “One of the reasons I got where I was is because of the things the military did for me, but more importantly than that are my family and the Syracuse community,” adding, “I learned about honesty, integrity and hard work which served me throughout my military career, my time at the White House and Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.”

While waiting to come on active duty, he mowed yards. “My dad used to kid me that since I mowed yards in the fifth and sixth grade, now you graduated law school and you’re mowing yards!” 

When Roberts told his grandfather, Willis Buhrle, he was going into the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program, he said, “Well that means you are going to be gone a lot.”  Roberts admits  that was true. While stationed in Europe he and his family had an opportunity to see London, Rome, Paris, Soviet Union, seeing it before it had fallen, Moscow, then Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg, “The military gave me a chance to see the world.”

In addition to being stationed in Georgia, Germany, Alabama, Kansas, and Washington D.C. Roberts traveled to various bases to try cases. Once in a tent Saudi Arabia, “Not like the Marine Corps tent, the Air Force tents were air conditioned!” One case took him to Panama, to try the last case before Howard Air Force base closed. 

After retirement from the Air Force in 2002, he became Deputy General Counsel of the White House Office of Administration. 

As Deputy General Counsel, Roberts served as the Contracts Attorney and Fiscal Law advisor for the White House offices, legal advisor on Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act matters, legal advisor on information technology matters, and legal advisor on ethics and professional responsibility matters.

Roberts left the Office of Administration in June 2007 and accepted a position as the Court Executive for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. He was the senior staff member responsible for the day-to-day operations of the court including budget, finance, personnel, contracting, building maintenance, security, and ethics matters. He served as Court Executive until retiring in March 2020 after nearly 40 years of active duty and federal civilian practice of law.

“When I worked for the White House and USCAAF, I thought here I am some dumb lawyer from some po dunk town in Western Kansas, but I got to see and work with people you only see on TV.”

In closing, Roberts shared what the face of a veteran looks like for him, versus the veterans in front of him today. “I get medical care at Walter Reed Medical Center where they treat the wounded veterans particularly from the second Gulf War, and Afghanistan and with the type of warfare now, there are a lot of missing limbs and sometimes I see a veteran with a young family, being wheeled around by perhaps a wife, and maybe a child or two.But we as a country need to make a commitment to care for our veterans.” 

Melanie Eddy then presented three Quilts of Valor which are hand or machine made and presented to service members and veterans as a thank you for their service and sacrifice in serving. 

Sonny Rundell entered the Army in March 1953, training at Aberdeen Proving ground in Maryland as a welder and in ordinance field maintenance. He served in Korea for 18 months. While there he saw a Korean boy whose feet had frozen who had wandered into camp using sticks to get around. The guys made special shoes for him so he could walk. 

Richard Plunkett entered the Army in 1961 and served two years in Budingen Germany. He was in the 3rd Reconnaissance Squad 12 Calgary in the 3rd Armored division. 

Jerome Lampe entered the Army in March 1958 in Fort Carson, Colorado. Following eight weeks of training in Fire Director Artillery, he was sent to Fort Chaffee, Ark. for eight more weeks of training. He then went to Korea for 13 months in the 20th artillery 1st Calvary Division. He was on the gun crew that fired the first simulated atomic round in Korea. He achieved the rank of E5 during his two years of service in peace time, finishing in Fort Riley on March 10, 1960.

Each student and faculty member shook hands and thanked the veterans for their service. The fifth and sixth grade students gave handmade thank you notes to each veteran. 

The veterans were then honored as they walked through the lower level of the elementary school with students waving flags, smiling and many saying thank you. The pre-schoolers made each veteran a necklace with red, white and blue beads and the halls were lined with handmade posters and signs  paying tribute and thanking the veterans. Students began singing the national anthem. 

The physical education class was working out to patriotic songs. The music students were also singing the national anthem while standing, saluting the flag. 

The students made sure each veteran was made to feel special that day. 

That evening was the  annual Veterans Day dinner at the Veterans Building. A POW MIA table was set up in memory of fallen, missing in action, or prisoner of war military service-members.

The table is set for one, symbolizing some are missing. The salt sprinkled on the bread plate symbolizes the tears shed by waiting families. An inverted glass represents the fact that the missing and fallen cannot partake. A lit candle symbolizes a light of hope that lives in hearts to illuminate the missing’s way home.

Students from the Syracuse Christian Academy performed an armed forces medley. Then the Veterans and guests ate a supper of turkey, dressing, potatos, gravy, rolls, desserts and salads.  Attendees witnessed five veterans receive a Quilt of Valor, handmade and awarded to a service member or veteran, thanking them for their service and sacrifice. Melanie Eddy and Jean Bezona introduced each veteran then wrapped each veteran with a quilt. 

Raymond Henry was drafted in the Army in March 1955. Married and actively farming in Hamilton County, he had to leave for basic training in Colorado Springs. In the 97th Signal Corp, he spent one year in Warhoff Germany. He was shipped by boat both ways and was sick both ways.

He returned home to the farm, his son, Randy, after missing all the “firsts” in his life, and wife Janet. 

William (Bill) Royer entered the Marines in 1966 while attending Stanford University, signing up for officer training which meant six weeks each summer training while attending college. He served a total of 13 years with a mix of summer training, active duty, and reserve duty. Serving in Okinawa, Japan, Camp Lejeune NC and Vietnam, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. 

Serving overseas, Bill was in the mess tent when he heard someone holler his name. It was Jon Petterson from Lamar. And it was always good to see someone from home. 

Terry Maune served in the Army from 1965-1967 and was stationed in Tulles and Verdun France. He drove a truck, something he knew well, transferring artillery shells and bombs from bunkers all over France, taking them to Antwerp Belgium to be shipped to Vietnam. He enjoyed seeing Europe from a truck even though he was hauling potentially unstable explosives over small secondary roads were not as good as Highway 27.

George Phillippy entered the Navy in 1957 and was a part of all Arkansas Squad For special training. He was stationed at Naval Air Station, Kingsville, TX., serving aboard the USS Intrepid as a submarine hunter. When Emperor Trujillo of the Dominican Republic was assassinated in May 1961, he was ordered to ship immediately and within a few hours was on his way to the Dominican Republic, tasked with keeping peace in the Dominican Republic for two weeks. 

Billy Whitfield began his service in the Army in 1956   serving in the 29th  Infantry 85th Battalion. He was the company guard for the brig (prison) taking prisoners to the barracks for showers then back to the brig. His unit served as the final protective line for Germany to keep the Communists back. 

Billy was released from Active service in New York City where he had to pay his way home. He keeps a green porch light on to honor veterans service for our country. 

Thank you veterans. We hope you feel our appreciation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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