Lieutenant Colonel Speaks At Veteran’s Day Program
“John F. Kennedy said, ‘As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them’,” shared Lieutenant Colonel John Cunningham. “On this Veteran’s Day, I ask you to not just utter words of thanks to our veterans, but let your actions be the torch that you hold high.”
Cunningham was guest speaker at the Veteran’s Day Program held Friday, Nov. 11, at the Emmetsburg High School auditorium. Cunningham was born in Emmetsburg and graduated from Ayrshire Consolidated School. He enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard in December 1985, as a Cannoneer for Service Battery 1-194th FA.
He is currently serving as Commander of the 1st Battalion 194th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Comant Team, 34th Infantry Division and is the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Iowa Army National Guard. Among his command and staff assignments, he deployed as an ETT Tm Chief to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Cunningham’s most recent deployment was with Task Force Red Bulls to Afghanistan as the Parwan, Operation Coordination Center (OCC-P) Commander.
“It is truly an honor to be back here in Emmetsburg, in Palo Alto County, Iowa, recognizing Veteran’s Day with you all,” said Cunningham. “Today is the day to remember those who have served and those still serving. We are here to honor our brave men and women who are proudly serving this great nation for they are the fabric from which our flag of our nation has been woven.”
Cunningham shared that Armistice Day (Veteran’s Day) commemorates the signing of the ceasefire ending World War I on Nov. 11, 1918 “at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” World War I was termed to be the “war to end all wars.” However, World War II and the Korean War followed, and in 1954, Congress replaced the word “Armistice” with “Veteran’s Day” to honor all veterans.
“Over the course of the last year alone, Iowans in uniform have remained focused and have answered the call of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, and in the fight against terrorist networks throughout the world,” said Cunningham. “In fact, we have seen the largest deployment from Iowa since World War II with Task Force Red Bulls, which I was a part of along with my brother and son this last year.”
Cunningham noted that the image of a veteran has changed in the past ten years.
“Almost half of those now serving in the military are between the ages of 22 and 30,” said Cunningham. “America now has the largest population of young veterans since the Vietnam War. I encourage you to recognize the changing face of veterans and think about how you can help them. Encourage businesses to hire a veteran or military family member. Volunteer in your community on behalf of your veterans.”
Cunningham cited the Palo Alto County 4-H youth, VFW Post #2295, and others in Palo Alto County who collect and send care packages to soldiers stationed abroad.
“Help preserve the memory and meaning of their service by voting, participating, and bettering your community and exercising your rights, which our veterans swear to protect,” he continued.
The Lieutenant Colonel asked all veterans present to stand. Applause filled the auditorium.
“I am humbled to be in the presence of so many veterans and families of veterans,” said Cunningham. “Our simple and heartfelt thank-you for your honorable service. May we aspire to live our lives as a testament to the freedoms you have so unselfishly secured.”
Upon concluding his speech, Cunningham presented a U.S. flag, flown in Afghanistan, to VFW Post #2295 for the care packages that have been sent to servicemen and women overseas. The flag was flown in Afghanistan on May 1, 2011-the same day that Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed.
The program opened with the presentation of the U.S. flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. The Emmetsburg High School Concert Band played the National Anthem. VFW Post #2295 Senior Vice Ron Hersom welcomed those in attendance, and Rev. Curtis DeFord offered prayers.
Emmetsburg Catholic School Choir, consisting of students in grades 3, 4, and 5, sang the songs “God Bless the U.S.A.” and “The Spirit of America.”
In honor of the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, the youth-one by one-shared an interesting fact about the statue. The students, under the direction of Kelley Fog, performed the song “Lady Liberty.”
VFW Adjutant Jerry Dillon recited the lyrics from “That Ragged Old Flag,” written by Johnny Cash
The Emmetsburg High School Concert Band, directed by Aaron Phillips, played “America the Beautiful” and “America.”
“Taps,” performed by Arik Kerr and Doug Vesey on trumpet, brought the Veteran’s Day Program to a close.