ELKHART — “We should never take for granted what freedom is, and what God has given us,” concluded State Rep. Tim Neese in his speech to more than 300 people gathered to observe a Veterans Day ceremony at Rice Cemetery in Elkhart on Sunday morning.
Local color and honor guards joined a long line of Indiana Patriot Guard members, who stood with solemn pride next to their shining motorcycles while holding American flags that were blowing brilliantly in the wind. The sound of musicians playing taps — “the 24 most important notes in American history” as one speaker later phrased it — slowly grew louder and louder as 60 brass players who were spread out across the cemetery participated in an Echo Taps celebration that ended when Emmett Manley of Elkhart played the final note on his euphonium.
“It’s inspiring, and I’m sort of humbled to be here, but I’m glad I’m here. It’s much better than the alternative,” said Manley, a World War II Army Medical Corps veteran and a member of Elkhart’s New Horizons Band.
Young and old participated in the Echo Taps celebration. Danielle Conrad, a junior at Elkhart Memorial, played her mellophone and later came close to tears as she described how it had made her feel. “It’s very emotional. It’s a great experience. A lot of my family were in the services. I have two cousins in the Navy right now, and both of my grandpas were in the Navy as well,” she said.
Boy Scouts from Troops 31 in Bristol and 776 in Goshen stood at attention with colors next to the taps players. Also on hand were veterans and honor guard of Elkhart DAV Chapter 19, color guards from Company Bravo of the 6th Engineer Support Battalion of the Marine Forces Reserve in South Bend, National Guard Unit 1538 Transport Company of Elkhart, Howe School and American Legion Post 143 in Bristol.
Don Roth of Elkhart, who served during the Korean War as an Air Force mechanic, served as an honor guard member of Elkhart DAV Chapter 19. Roth talked about how he views the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. “I really have a terrible time calling this Veterans Day, because it’s Armistice Day to me. If it’s the end of the First World War, then that’s who should be honored. I’m proud they honor the veterans, believe me, but that should have been a special day itself.” President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day for Nov. 11, 1919.
Jackie Walorski, congresswoman-elect to the 2nd District U.S. House seat, spoke of the “patriotism and the heart of the American spirit that we so proudly represent today” and was “honored to have the opportunity to thank” the many veterans and their families who were gathered and saluted their “selfless efforts to shape the pride and the glory of our red, white and blue.”
Senator-elect Joe Donnelly was represented by staffer Meredith Perks, who read a letter in which Donnelly wrote of the importance of taking care of our wounded warriors and returning veterans. Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore said that “there are so many to thank. Our military is composed of almost 1.5 million personnel. We have an obligation to those who serve in any capacity.” Moore also spoke about the Gold Stars hanging in Elkhart windows, which indicate “the supreme sacrifice” that “has been made by a family member.”
“Do you remember a time during the Vietnam, and somewhat in the Korean War, when many Americans who did not like the cause, confused that issue with the support of our troops?” Moore asked. “Liking or disliking the cause has nothing to do with supporting those who are ordered to do the job.”
Final remarks were given by Gordon Sherven, past commander and chaplain of Elkhart DAV Chapter 19, who praised “the men and women who put the ideals of their country before themselves.”