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
governor's 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
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
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 'Nam 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
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
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
If you are coming
into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, GO
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.
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
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,"
Klinger asked everyone to continue to offer prayers for those who
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
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]