We made the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag every morning at school, and went to church on Sundays, each being a symbol of the important beliefs that have shaped our lives and two of the main building blocks of our democracy:
"God and Country."
Neola speaker Veteran Lonnie Ring
sharing his beliefs and values to a tentative audience.
photo by Bobbi Munch
When I first heard about the Neola Veteran’s Monument I knew it would be a nice addition to the downtown area. When one thinks about monuments I think about Washington D.C. and all of the monuments that exist there and how nice they look, never once thinking that Neola would some day have a monument to honor our men and women in uniform, although it is a fitting symbol to them.
To start off this dedication I searched my thoughts to make a presentation that would be appropriate in conveying a perspective that would represent a complete view of what the monument stands for. I’m not suggesting that this monument doesn’t compliment the valor and sacrifices of all of the men and women in all branches of the services, because that’s the main idea behind this testament to our military. What I am suggesting is that the symbol of a Veteran’s Monument carries with it an additional benefit that lies with in the existence of this tribute.
Having grown up in Neola, I, like the others that I grew up with, was constantly exposed to symbols that are an important part of our everyday, American life. We made the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag every morning at school, and went to church on Sundays, each being a symbol of the important beliefs that have shaped our lives, and two of the main building blocks of our democracy: “God and Country.”
My dad was a World War 11 Veteran and a member of Neola’s American Legion, and because of this, at an early age, I met many patriotic men and women who served in the military. I remember veterans of the First and Second World Wars sitting around the coffee shops and taverns talking to Dad and exchanging experiences that they had while in the military. Several of these Veterans went into much detail about their experiences, and a couple of these Veterans had suffered near fatal wounds and had the scars to show for it. Unfortunately these conversations would always include good friends and relatives who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Then came Korea and another generation of veterans began returning home from that event. Several of these men and women had served in both Korea and World War Two, and they too became a part of the conversations about the military, as they talked about their experiences. And it was during these conversations that I first heard phrases like: Guadalcanal, Battle of the Bulge; The Thirty Eighth Parallel; Missing in Action, and Prisoners of War; Words that have been quite defining to millions of American Veterans. Never, though, during any of these conversations, was there any resentment for the hardships and sacrifices that these veterans endured. I always looked forward to listening to the stories about their encounters. Their dedication to our country seemed to have so much significance and it encouraged me and my friends to develop a strong sense of patriotism towards the values that the military represents. All of these Veterans were symbols for my generation; symbols that established the standards that must continue in order to secure our freedom in a world with so much political unrest.
A few years later came the Vietnam Conflict, and with our upbringing we knew that it was our generation’s turn to step forward and become a part of America’s defense. So as the Vietnam Conflict raged on, my generation stepped forward to take our place among the military ranks and do our duty.
Many of the decisions that our legislatures made during these and all of the other conflicts that the United States has been a part of have been questionable, but no one doubted the importance of a strong, dedicated military, so without questioning our leaders, we did our part.
Today in the Middle East our country is dealing with several years of military action, and also trying to prevent another 911 event from happening. These operations are putting a great burden on our armed forces, but the spirit of today’s Military Personnel hasn’t wavered from the dedication that I observed when I was young. Just as in the past, today’s military takes pride in serving our country and carrying on the tradition that they were raised to believe is the right thing to do.
One has only to listen to the daily news to realize how stable our government is compared to those of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the list goes on and on. Many factors figure into having a stable government, but the symbols that we see, the leaders that we have, the governmental makeup, and especially our military makeup are a main aspect in how we view our government, and this monument will add to those symbols.
So from this day forward the honor and respect this Veteran’s Monument affords the American Military Personnel who lived, and will live, in Neola will be a constant reminder to those who have stepped forward from this town that their allegiance to our country will never be forgotten. While at the same time sewing the seeds of patriotism in our younger generations, and nurturing these seeds with the reality of how important these seeds are to the survival of our nation.