Veterans Day Across the Tri-States
Many people across the country, and right here in the Tri-States region, took time on Veterans Day to honor the men and women who have served their country.
The Plaza, just north of the University Union, was the site of one of WIU's Veterans Day events.
The cold weather did not stop about a half-dozen people from taking turns reading the names of more than 2,000 current service members, veterans and fallen soldiers.
Crystal Kepple is with WIU's Veterans Resource Center. She worked to have the university included in the National Roll Call.
“Many of the veterans I’ve spoken to don’t feel that they personally need honor and they don’t feel like they are heroes. I think this is a great way to show them that we recognize them as such and to honor them and to let them know we are away of the sacrifices we’ve made and that we are here for them," Kepple said.
She said dozens of colleges and universities across the country participated in the National Roll Call for Veteran’s Day.
Karen Morgan, an advisor at WIU, was one of the volunteers who read from the list.
“I think it’s a good way to recognize the service,” Morgan said. “We have a lot of students who are veterans or are currently serving. And I think it’s a good way to recognize the service of those students and our veterans nationwide.”
WIU has a strong military history. In fact, it is the only non-military institution to have a nickname, The Leathernecks, derived from a branch of the military.
It has also been ranked as a "Best for Vets College" by Military Times magizine..
There are nearly 850 current students who are veterans or active servicemen and women.
Among them is junior Geology major, Lucas Smith, who served two tours in Iraq before enrolling in Western.
He spoke to a small crowd during a separate event on campus. He told the crowd that those who truly care about veterans should go out of their way to help them.
"Anytime you run into a program that helps veterans, maybe it would be worth your time,” Smith said. “Maybe you could spare a few extra minutes out of your day to help a veteran."
Bonnie Pflug of Keokuk said she never misses a Veterans Day Ceremony, even with the wind-chill temperature dipping to about 17 degrees.
She was bundled up in a puffy, purple winter coat, a maroon stocking hat, and a small pair of gray gloves a stranger gave her before the ceremony so she could keep her hands warm.
She had been sticking them in the cuffs of her coat.
Pflug said despite the conditions, there is no place she would rather be on the day where the lives and sacrifices of so many are honored.
"I am so proud that everyone has shown up for this. This is such a a beautiful thing for us."
For her, Veterans' Day is personal as Pflug's family has a deep military history.
A smile even comes to her as she recalls it, starting with her husband Carl.
"I remember when my husband was in the Navy. I went to Treasure Island with him out in California as a young bride," said Pflug. "Then my son served in the Air Force in 1988 and then my father and my uncle were in WWII."
Bonnie Pflug's father and uncle are buried in the Keokuk National Cemetery, which is located several yards from the Veterans Memorial, the backdrop for Keokuk's annual Veterans' Day event.
She said she still remembers the day the memorial was completed.
"Oh it was wonderful. I remember that day so well. (I was) so proud."
Pflug was joined by about 100 people for the roughly 30 minute ceremony.
It featured former State Senator Gene Fraise, Paul George, who oversees the Keokuk National Cemetery, and Pat Hogan, the Commander for the American Legion Post #41.
Hogan said he is always worried about whether people will turn out during bad weather, but they always do. He said it comes down to honor and respect.
"Freedom is something that we all have a part in. By us being able to come together and share with one another, just for a few moments, on a day like today, really solidifies that bond between all Americans."
The mood inside the Hy-Vee on E. Main in Galesburg was in sharp contrast to the cold and overcast Veteran's Day morning. More than 200 veterans arrived for a warm breakfast, compliments of the grocery store.
Nate Barker, a fire patrol sergeant with the Charlie Battery in Galesburg, was one of the youngest soldiers in attendance.
"I had a grandpa that was a World War II vet and my other grandpa was in the Air Force during the Korean War," Barker said. "And it's nice to see these guys out and about and enjoying stuff like this. They're the guys that really paved the way for people like me."
Gene Pearson, a resident of Galesburg for most of his life, served in WWII for nearly three years. He was part of a maintenance crew for B-29's, playing a key role in repairing a plane shot down in China.
"We had to go up and change a couple engines, because it was close to the front lines. So we went up, there was no people there. We put two engines on it, and they said 'Be careful, because that's how we're going to fly back home.'"