Wednesday, November 14, 2012
 
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Veterans Day celebrated in Lincoln

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[November 14, 2012]  On a windy, unseasonably warm day in Lincoln, Veterans Day was celebrated. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1756 hosted the Sunday afternoon event honoring all those who have served and are currently serving to protect our country through military service.

The ceremony featured retired Navy Capt. Joseph Klinger as guest speaker, along with an "I Am Old Glory" flag ceremony and a reading by winning essayist Cameron Jodlowski.

Klinger is the assistant director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. He is also involved in nuclear safety programs and low-level radioactive waste management at state, regional and national levels, and acts as the governorís homeland security adviser.

As a retired Navy captain and former Marine, Klinger struck a chord with his audience throughout his 10-minute talk. He commended all those who serve our country and shared several experiences that bind veterans.

In his opening Klinger said: "As a naval officer, I embrace the Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment. And, there is no greater commitment than taking this oath to serve country and risking your life. I think every veteran here remembers the time they took the first oath."

He observed that patriotism brings many to the military, but he reflected that his motive was not "so honorable."

"I had been saying to myself, I need to get some maturity," he said. And with more than a hint of sarcasm that brought chuckles, he added: "What greater way to gain maturity than joining the military at the height of the Vietnam War?"

Klinger served in the Marine infantry in Vietnam in 1967 and later as a Navy medical officer in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Noting the sign outside the VFW marking 237 years of the U.S. Marine Corps, he said: "You Marines out there, happy belated birthday!" adding, "Semper Fi!"

He briefly recalled his experience of entering boot camp and six months later being in the rice paddies of Vietnam, armed with guns like an M-16 that often did not work in the heat of battle.

"I saw firsthand the absolute horror and brutality of war," he said.

He attained the maturity he had sought.

He likened the soldier's combat emotional experiences the same, whether from the Revolutionary War or today in Afghanistan.

He cheerfully said that being seriously wounded in a helicopter while in íNam changed his life.

"Navy medicine treated me very well and saved my life," he said.

When Klinger came home from Vietnam, it was during that period of time when the American public not did not appreciate his sacrifice. The war placed a stamp of disgrace on our soldiers that he said no soldier should have to endure again.

In 1985, when he returned to the military as a Navy medical officer, he found satisfaction doing for soldiers what had been done for him.

Today, he is appreciative that the American public is now able to distinguish between the warrior and the war. "That's huge," he said, adding that our veterans need our appreciation for their sacrifices. When they are stopped in public today and thanked, that is fitting and appreciated.

He is also pleased to see how women are now being recognized and serving as leaders, and he acknowledged the numerous women veterans in the room.

He observed that in a look back through history and comparing today's soldiers and veterans, some may feel like they are not what those were who served in World War I and World War II.

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In the face of such daunting reputations, he shared a note seen on a door not that long ago at the Bethesda Navy Hospital. It was handwritten by a Navy SEAL who was suffering serious injuries after being shot in the face and arm by an AK-47.

Attention all who enter here:

If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, GO ELSEWHERE!

The wounds I received I got in a job I love; doing it for people I love; supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love.

I'm incredibly tough and will make a full recovery.

What is full? That is the absolute, utmost, physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20 percent further through sheer mental tenacity.

This room you are about it enter is a room of fun, optimism and intense rapid re-growth.

If you are not prepared for that; go elsewhere.

It was signed, "The management" -- with a Navy SEAL insignia.

"That's today's warrior," Klinger said. "We are in good hands," he observed.

Klinger asked everyone to continue to offer prayers for those who serve today.

Following Klinger, the winner of the VFW essay competition for the Voice of Democracy came forward. Jodlowski read his entry, "Is the Constitution Still Valid?"

Special guests were recognized including Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder, VFW Post 1756 Commander Michelle Ramlow, the American Legion Post 263 Senior Vice-Commander and American Legion Ladies Auxiliary President Tecia Hennessey, and Sgt. Robert "Bob" E. Graue Detachment 1336 Marine Corps League Commandant James Harnacke.

The day also included prayers , the Pledge of Allegiance and laying of the wreath by ladies auxiliaries in memory of all deceased veterans.

The event closed with a 21-gun salute by the American Legion firing squad, taps by Randy Schrader and prayer.

Ham and beans in the hall followed.

[By JAN YOUNGQUIST]

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