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Veterans' Day speaker honors those who support those who serve

Monday, November 12, 2012

Capt. James Chevalier, of the Air Force Reserve, was the guest speaker at Saline County's Veterans Day ceremony on Monday, Nov. 12.
(Sarah Reed/Democrat-News)
Although the official Veterans Day holiday had come and gone, community members crowded the lawn of Saline County Courthouse Monday, Nov. 12, to honor those who've served.

The ceremony, hosted by Malta Bend American Legion Post No. 558, incorporated acknowledgements from students, community leaders and veterans. It also touched the personal lives of many in attendance.

Guest speaker Capt. James Chevalier, of the Air Force Reserve, spoke about the importance of family and friends, whose own sacrifices are sometimes overlooked.

"The loved ones of our veterans back us up," he said, stating his service is only possible because of his wife, Katie. "My wife makes my service possible. My whole family makes it worthwhile."

He referred to an unofficial spouse's medal, noting the words issued on its accompanying certificate, which state the spouse does not wear a uniform yet they serve their country.

"'They do not acquire nor wear ribbons, yet they go. ... They did not ask for the duty they perform, yet they unwaveringly serve to their best ability,'" he read. "Every service member has to have a network of heroes at home to make their service possible ..."

The Marshall High School graduate has served two contingency operations, both deployments to Afghanistan. The captain noted the 442nd fighter wing at Whiteman Air Force Base had its fourth deployment to Afghanistan last year. He oversaw the maintenance operations of the A-10 Thunderbolt.

"It was a privilege," he said. "We were a patchwork of personnel from five bases, some active duty, mostly Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve."

The group moved 300 people, 18 combat aircraft and more than 200 tons of support equipment from one base to another, he said, while simultaneously continuing protection of ground troops. Chevalier noted the skills and wisdom passed down from superior officers, and the capability of supporting airmen.

"I'm proud to be an American airman serving with today's soldiers, sailors and Marines, sharing the awesome responsibility of taking extraordinary measures to lead for peace and freedom," he said.

But troops need support not only during their time in theater, Chevalier noted, encouraging communities to employ veterans upon their return.

In August, the Department of Veterans Affairs approved more than 36,000 applications for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which is a training and education program for unemployed veterans to upgrade their skills for in-demand jobs, according to the organization.

This past March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 was 12.1 percent in 2011. The jobless rate for all veterans was reportedly 8.3 percent.

As a ceremony of contemplation and gratitude, two Malta Bend High School sophomores shared what Veterans Day means to them.

"I view this holiday as a time to celebrate all the servicemen and women who have survived instances like these," said Kayla Kiehl after sharing some of her grandfather's experiences of World War II. "This is a day of respect, honor, dignity and pride. Every single soldier who dedicates their lives to this country, its citizens and the ideal it stands for deserve every ounce of admiration Veterans Day brings to them."

David Ruch asked how often people think of veterans in their everyday lives.

"We enjoy freedoms found nowhere else in the world," he said. "I believe we should show our thanks every day. ... I want you to think about what others have done to make your life the way it is now, and thank them for their sacrifices."

And that belief was why so many attended, wrapped in heavy coats and blankets and shielding themselves from a harsh wind on Monday.

The courthouse square has become a beacon of recognition for veterans' service, with the Walk of Honor continuing to grow. Veteran advocate Charlie Guthrie reminded the crowd that funds from bricks purchased for the walk support Show-Me Honor Flight, which sends veterans to view their memorials in Washington, D.C. at no charge to them.

Following speeches, a wreath was placed at the Veterans Memorial. The Marshall High School Band performed, and the fourth-grade choir sang an Armed Forces tribute before releasing balloons. Frank Walker, of VFW Post No. 2646, also paid homage to POW/MIAs during the recognition ceremony.

Contact Sarah Reed at

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