Around 90 citizens attended the dedication of Veterans Memorial Park in Florence Nov. 11. PRIDE chairmwoman Sue Klassen welcomed everyone and introduced Florence mayor Mary Shipman who spoke briefly and christened the new park as “Veterans Memorial Park.” Servicemen from Florence and surrounding areas are memorialized at the entrance to the park where 235 bricks display names of those who served.
The ceremony was continued in the American Legion Building where the PRIDE committee served a meal. Following the meal, PRIDE chairwoman Sue Klassen presented the American Legion with a picture of a U.S. flag and verse. Accepting for the legion was Commander Reilly Reid of John McKay American Legion Post 308, Florence.
Special guest Maj. Colin Huckins, Commander Force Support Squadron at McConnell Air Force base, spoke about the sacrifices and hardships of veterans and those currently serving in the military.
“Whether you wear the uniform today or wore it decades ago, you (veterans) represent a fundamental truth,” Huckins said. “It’s not the powerful weapons that make our military the greatest in the world ... It’s not the sophisticated aircraft, satellites, tanks, carriers, or cyber technology that make us the most advanced.”
He continued that this country’s true strength is no secret weapon but “the spirit, the skill, and the dedication … of our service men and women.”
The price U.S. servicemen and women pay is immeasurable but the benefits are defining.
On a recent trip home to Sturgis, N.D., Huckins said he was able to compare freedoms enjoyed in this country with restrictions by residents in Nassiriyah, Iraq, where he was stationed in 2003.
“I had the humbling experience of visiting orphanages where the children were under threat of being abandoned because there was no money to pay the workers,” he said.
While Huckins was able to watch his niece and nephews play in their yard, obtain an education, and enjoy childhood activities, a bottle of clean water was a prize to children in Nassiriyah who played in a front yard, “hopping over open sewage, running down a street in a dirty neighborhood.”
“I again compare this to the happy life of my family, not overly privileged by our standards, but where my nephew worries about the costume he’ll wear to Trick-or-Treat,” Huckins said, “not where his next meal will come from.”
Huckins remembered some military personnel for their acts of valor and expressed the importance of remembering all veterans.