The gym at the high school was filled with students, staff, community members and of course veterans during the morning program.
All were invited to stand as members of the Whitish-Funk VFW of Fennimore advanced the colors.
Post Commander Curt Cole warmly greeted the crowd and also asked that everyone offer up a round of applause, not only for the VFW and Honor Flight Veterans seated behind him, but also all those in the stands attending the program.
The high school and middle school concert choir performed a moving rendition of the National Anthem. One spectator was heard commenting, “They sound spectacular!”
Third graders from the Fennimore Elementary School gathered on the risers to show their patriotism with their performance of ‘On Veterans Day’ and ‘Thank a Vet.’
The musical performances were followed by a moving speech delivered again this year by Garrett Duff.
Duff began by thanking all veterans for their bravery, sacrifice, and altruistic efforts.
“You may have noticed I used a word that isn’t quite as common as others, that word is altruistic,” Duff said.
The Fennimore High School student went on to share with the crowd the definition from Merriam-Webster of altruistic.
“Having or showing an unselfish concern for the welfare of others. “
“I would say this accurately describes many of the veterans here today,” Duff said. “Veterans devoted their lives and served unselfishly simply in the interest of protecting others. Veterans fight to protect others, many of whom they will never know. And ask for nothing in return.”
Duff went on to briefly describe the life and experiences of fallen Fennimore Veteran Donald Lavern Smith. The local veteran was born and raised in Fennimore. Growing up on 12th Street which, as Duff noted, was briefly renamed Memorial Drive in his honor.
Smith enlisted in the Army in 1961 and climbed the ranks to a staff sergeant. He served as Squad Leader with a unit that conducted operations on the border with East Germany.
In 1966 Smith received an honorable discharged and returned to Wisconsin. As Duff noted, Smith “did not feel as though his service was over,” and reenlisted. Unfortunately, Smith was killed in the line of duty shortly after arriving in Vietnam.
“Veterans aren’t rock stars or celebrities, but they are heroes,” Duff noted. “Veterans gave their lives not for personal gain but for you to live peacefully in a prosperous community like Fennimore.”
Cole once again took the podium after Duff and asked the crowd to take a moment to honor veterans that were present who had taken part in the Badger Honor Flight. After the thunderous roar of clapping ceased, Cole addressed the crowd once more.
“We are here to honor our service members and heroes,” Cole said. Cole also noted that we should also honor the families and loved ones of our service people for they “have served just as much as we have.”
“The heroes honored today came from all walks of life,” Cole said. “They share countless qualities, they have courage, pride, determination, selflessness and dedication to duty. Many didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battle fields or didn’t go to war because they love fighting. They are ordinary people who left their loved ones to respond in extraordinary ways during harsh and extreme times.”
Cole briefly explained the history of Veterans Day and how it got its start as Armistice Day before eventually evolving to honor all Veterans and Service members as it does today.
“Nothing can ever replace the hole left from a fallen service member,” Cole said. “But our gathering here today is one small spark in the flame of pride across America. Your attendance today is a way to say we remember. We remember them and honor them every day. God Bless our Troops.”