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Rain pelted Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central in Radcliff on Monday, but the downpour could not wash away the pride of the crowd nestled in a shed on the back side of the property.
Local veterans, families and community members gathered at the cemetery to pay their respects. A wreath was laid in honor of fallen veterans, those missing in action and prisoners of war. A moment of silence was held as tribute along with a rifle salute and Taps at the ceremony’s conclusion.
The ceremony was postponed from Sunday because of the public unveiling of the Hardin County Veterans Tribute at the Elizabethtown Nature Park off Ring Road.
Chuck Heater, KVCC director, reminded the crowd this was the first Veterans Day ceremony observed in which there was no living World War I veteran.
“It’s very special,” he said.
Steve Egan, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran and member of the VFW Post 10281 in Vine Grove, served as featured speaker, walking the crowd through a brief summary of America’s military history dating back to the installation of militias as a form of national and state protection.
Egan also touched on the differences in the military since the draft ended in 1973, when it was transferred to an all-volunteer force. A force, Egan said, that has been battle-tested through numerous conflicts in areas such as Kosovo, Bosnia and the Middle East.
“In my opinion, the all-volunteer force has proven itself a viable program,” he said.
With thousands dead and wounded through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Egan said today’s military is facing challenges its predecessors did not with numerous deployments and a wartime climate that has expanded beyond a decade. In certain cases, he said, depression, spousal abuse and suicidal tendencies are on display. Egan told those in the room they have a responsibility to urge the government to provide proper support systems for veterans who are struggling.
“My friends, America’s warriors are tired, but they are not defeated,” he said.
Egan said service men and women continue to meet goals and standards set for them, knowing fully the consequences if they fail to meet their obligations.
The motivation for serving, he said, has changed little from past generations. A sense of patriotism might be an inspiration to join while job experience or the opportunity to attain a college education might attract others. Some, he said, might simply be looking for stable employment to better take care of their families.
In exchange for their service, Egan said veterans receive life skills and tangible benefits but also the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
He encouraged the crowd to reach out and support active military members and veterans and their families and show a willingness to thank them for their service.
“I will always take pride in my military service ’til the day I die,” Egan said.
Toward the end of the ceremony, the Knights of Columbus presented Heater with a new American flag to fly at the cemetery.
T. Elliott, a military widow and Radcliff resident, said her husband, a Vietnam veteran, has been gone for years but she still follows military traditions and attends ceremonies to show her support.
“We still respect all the military branches,” she said.
Elliott also praised the cemetery and said the area should be thankful to have such a resting place for its veterans.
“It’s really a beauty,” she said.
Allan Ferrell, a 30-year Army veteran, said he views Veterans Day as a moment to stop, reflect and thank those who have served or are currently serving.
“You’ve got to give respect,” he said. “If you quit respecting them, you quit being a country.”
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.