by BETH ALTENA
Perfect fall weather graced a service at Veteran’s Memorial Park, 5747 Jupiter Avenue in Plainfield Township, one of many Veteran’s Day services around West Michigan. Speaking on his and his wife’s 50th anniversary, Township Supervisor George Meek, a four-year veteran himself, asked the crowd to remember and thank veterans for their service. He shared that he had four grandsons enter the service in 2010.
Speaker Senator Mark Jansen also urged listeners to take the time to thank those who serve our country and said veterans come in “all shapes and sizes.” He has a nephew in Afghanistan in his fourth tour of duty. Jansen said veterans are “sons, daughters, husbands and wives.” He praised those who step up to serve our country.
“I believe in the Bible and Jesus was a servant. He led by serving,” Jansen stated.
Jansen listed countries where the United States has seen military combat, and noted that younger listeners wouldn’t recognize the references to some of the countries.
“People are trying to take away our freedom, safety and are trying to harm us,” Jansen said. “On 9/11 they came to our soil.” He said Flight 93 was an example of heroism, and the people who took the plane down in a cornfield to save the lives of many others were true heroes.
Heroes are those who have faith, vision and courage as well as the desire to protect those who cannot protect themselves, Jansen described. “Tonight is about all of that, and to thank them. We know evil is in this world for generations. There was evil in the Bible and there is evil today. Veterans are people willing to say yes and to defend us.”
“Find someone who has a veteran in their family and thank them,” Jansen continued. “Tonight I hope and pray the generations to come will follow in their footsteps of those heroes, and I ask God to bless this nation.”
Meek shared the history of Veteran’s Day. “On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the first world war ended, and in 1919 the country celebrated Armistice Day on November 11 as a day of solemn pride. The holiday was celebrated thus until 1953, when a shoe store owner in Kansas decided it would be a good idea to celebrate our veterans on that day.”
Meek said veterans are willing to sacrifice all in service to their country, and reminded the crowd that many have done just that. He listed the number of veterans who remain missing in wars over the years. From WWI, 4,400 never returned or were found; from WWII, 78,000; from the Korean War, 800; from Vietnam, 1,753; from the Cold War, 128; one from the Persian Gulf, one from Iraq, and one from Afghanistan. From Michigan the totals of those missing in action are 53 from the Korean War, four from the Cold War and one from Iraq. He said he watched the 6 p.m. news and heard a veteran say, “Freedom is not cheap. Many people have given and given and given. When you come across a family of a veteran or a veteran, thank them.”
The evening included an invocation by Josh Twiest, youth director at Belmont Baptist Church, the “Pledge of Allegiance,” “National Anthem,” a 21-gun salute by the Color Guard, Sons of the American Legion Squad 358, and a placing of the wreath at the monument to veterans. The ceremony is dedicated to all the men and women of this community who helped to preserve the freedom of this great nation. Chuck Weldon, township trustee and veteran, is one of the event’s organizers.