Veterans celebrated

By Deanna Cabinian

About 80 people came out to show their appreciation for veterans yesterday at the Veterans Day ceremony.

The ceremony, sponsored by NIU’s Veterans Club, was held at the Veterans Memorial Flag pole near the East Lagoon.

The ceremony began with the posting of the colors by members of NIU’s ROTC program. Jennifer Webster, a senior music education major and president of the Veterans Club, sang the national anthem.

Three people gave speeches during the ceremony. Veterans Club adviser Jon Lehuta spoke first.

Lehuta said Veterans Day was a day to reflect on the past, consider the present and think about the future. He also spoke about how the current war in Iraq is a war of ideology in which “the enemy is faceless, and yet has a thousand faces.”

Additionally, Lehuta spoke about the federal government’s reluctance to fund programs to aid veterans. He cited research that states a quarter of a million veterans are homeless. He said there is a need for programs to assist those that have served our country.

“Those of us here today know that the blood of patriots have purchased the freedom we enjoy,” he said.

Lt. Col. Stephen Payne, chair of the military science department, spoke next. He talked about people serving in wartime, and mentioned the many NIU ROTC graduates and others who have set aside their personal lives to serve our country.

Payne said Veteran’s Day is about remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country’s freedom. “God bless our veterans,” he said.

Dr. John Wassner, Commander of the 909th Forward Surgical Team for the United State’s Army Reserves, spoke last. Wassner, a surgeon from Sycamore, served for nine months in Afghanistan caring for soldiers. He returned to the United States in May.

Wassner was moved to tears as he talked about veterans’ courage saying they “stood up to brilliant, clever, but misguided and evil dictators.”

Although Wassner spent nine months in Afghanistan, he said his service paled in comparison to that of others.

“We have been given the gift of democracy and freedom,” he said. Wassner said people should thank veterans and remember them for that.

The Rev. Steve Knox of the Newman Catholic Student Center gave a benediction next and said a prayer for soldiers overseas. He also read the names of veterans whose names were written on the index cards that were available by the Dear Soldier holiday care packages donation boxes at the Holmes Student Center.

The ceremony concluded with the retiring of the colors by the ROTC.

“I’m very pleased with the ceremony and the turnout,” Webster said afterward. “I think that the speeches were very pertinent and I was fighting tears toward the end. I’m very grateful for everyone’s participation in this ceremony.”