PIQUA — It might have been chilly at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, but that did not keep the Piqua community from paying tribute to this nation’s veterans.
The Veterans Day Committee, along with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4874 and American Legion Post 184, held the 2016 Piqua Veterans Day Ceremony on Friday morning at the Piqua Veterans Memorial. Commander Richard Trowbridge of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4874 was the master of ceremonies during the event, with the Piqua High School Band performing the national anthem and a musical selection. Chaplain Joseph Goetz of VFW Post 4874 gave the invocation. Veterans of the Korean War placed the wreath and yellow rose at the beginning of the ceremony, and the ceremony ended with the firing of the salute from the Veterans Elite Tribute Squad.
Bruce Thompson, U.S. Army veteran of the 25th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division, was the keynote speaker. Thompson served three tours of duty in Vietnam and returned to the United States, working as a respiratory therapist at Good Samaritan Hospital for 30 years. Thompson plans on entering ministry once he retires.
“I am very honored to be here and very humbled to say the least,” Thompson said.
Thompson explained how he visited the Piqua Veterans Memorial prior to Friday’s event and how he walked through Forest Hill Cemetery, adjacent to the memorial. He saw veterans of all different wars laid to rest there, from the Spanish-American War to WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, and so on.
“This community is well-represented by veterans,” Thompson said. He added that, looking at the crowd in attendance, “I am astounded by the number of people here … You should be very proud.”
Thompson also spoke of veterans of the War on Terror and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We have a new generation wearing the uniform,” Thompson said, adding that some of those veterans have served five or six tours and may be “battle weary.”
Thompson named some of the most recent fatalities that American forces have suffered, including the losses of Capt. Andrew Byers, 30, of Rolesville, N.C., and Sgt. First Class Ryan Gloyer, 34, of Greenville, Pa. Both soldiers were assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) based in Fort Carson, Colo. They were killed by Taliban forces in northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz province at the beginning of this month.
Thompson also named the three service members killed in Jordan earlier this month, who were Green Berets from 5th Special Forces Group. They were Fort Campbell, Ky.-based soldiers, including SSgt. Matthew Lewellen, SSgt. Kevin McEnroe, and SSgt. James Moriarty. They reportedly died after they came under fire while entering a Jordanian military base.
“We must pray for their children,” Thompson said, adding that people need to remember those servicemembers’ families who are “entering the darkest pain imaginable.”
Thompson remembered other veterans, speaking about how the three friends and veterans he has lunch with every Friday came to attend Piqua’s Veterans Day Ceremony. While Thompson served during the Vietnam War, his friends had each served during WWII. They represented each branch of the military with the exception of the Navy, and they felt connected not only by their friendship, but also by the bond of their “fraternal union” that they had as veterans.
Thompson also remarked on the resilience and sense of duty that veterans felt.
“We have those that are now old but grateful to be alive,” he said. “We also know resilience.”
Thompson said that what veterans did “by way of duty and honor” was what made this country great.
Thompson explained the tradition of honoring veterans at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, which followed the tradition of the Armistice that ended World War I.
“It was decided that on the the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, all hostilities would cease,” he said.
Thompson also talked about how he served in Vietnam with his father, who served two tours in Vietnam.
“My story is personal. Yours is personal as well,” Thompson said.
Thompson remembered witnessing students from the University of California, Berkeley protesting the veterans returning to the United States after serving in Vietnam.
“They missed the entire point,” Thompson said about their protests. He said that while there were different political views on the war, they should have written letters or protested in a meaningful way while still honoring the veterans.
“The wise man looks out for the interests of others,” he said.
Overall, Thompson said, that as long as the nation still holds days to remember its servicemembers, the United States will continue to teach the world how to honor veterans. He also said that as long as young people continue to take up the call to service, that the “nation will never be enslaved.”
He finished by reading from Psalm 27, calling on people to trust in God.
“Thank you for serving our country, and thank you for supporting those that still do,” Thompson said.
Reach Sam Wildow at [email protected] or (937) 451-3336