Community gathers to celebrate our nation’s military heroes
BY BRYCE KELLY
Mt. Pleasant News
Henry County paid its respects to local veterans on Friday with its annual Veteran’s Day celebration at the Mt. Pleasant Veteran’s Hall. And while the celebration is held every year, each year never fails to be just as special as the one before it.
Veterans and their families, along with members of the community wishing to pay their respects, all gathered in the meeting hall of the Mt. Pleasant veteran’s building to celebrate and remember our nation’s men and women in uniform. Hosted by various military organizations across the county, attendees were treated to an afternoon of music and guest speakers.
“We want to thank everyone for coming out today to appreciate and celebrate our veterans,” said local veteran, John March, a speaker at the gathering. “And of course we want to thank our veterans. They are why we are all here.”
As part of that thanksgiving, the Mt. Pleasant High School choir was also present to entertain with patriotic songs, as well as leading the crowd in singing the national anthem. In addition to recognizing all veterans, Roger Pittsenbarger, Henry County Veteran’s Affairs director, was on hand to give out commemorative pins to all who served in the military during the Vietnam War. The pins were established by the U.S. government to commemorate Vietnam War veterans and their service.
“Roughly 33 percent of veterans alive today served during Vietnam. And back in the day, the Vietnam War was probably the most unpopular conflict that we as a country were involved in,” said Pittsenbarger, a U.S. Air Force veteran. “Often, the veterans that did make it home were not always welcomed back warmly, which is deeply unfortunate.”
“These pins are an award long overdue,” he continued. “They are meant to pay tribute and honor to those brave soldiers who served our country during that very difficult time.”
Following the afternoon’s events, those who served during the Vietnam War were encouraged to take a pin if they wanted one.
In addition to hearing from various speakers, guests were also briefed on the various projects related to veterans that local members of the community have been working on. Dean King, commander of the Henry County American Legion, has been among various veterans in the county who have lobbied on behalf of veteran’s affairs in the state.
Most currently, King says he has been pushing for a change in government policies that would provide more money in the country’s national budget to care for veterans.
“In addition and as a result of much work by our veterans in this state, we now have a veteran’s affairs office in every county in the state of Iowa, and that is a very positive thing,” King said. “And we have a VFW Auxiliary that is now open to both men and women, rather than just women as it used to be two years ago, which is also great.”
Jim Onorato, a Salem-area veteran, added that thanks to the hard work and generous donations of various Henry County citizens, the Salem Veteran’s Memorial continues to expand.
“It’s amazing how all of Henry County has come together and helped us build this memorial,” said Onorato. “We are coming along with developing the memorial even more and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of Henry County.”
Following the indoor program, attendees were ushered outdoors, where a color guard initiated a round of volleys and played Taps.