WARSAW — VFW Post 1126 and American Legion Post 49 hosted the annual Veterans Day event at Center Lake Pavilion Sunday, Nov. 11.
“Today the bell at the Kosciusko County courthouse will be rung at 11 a.m. in joining in the event of tolling bells across the country called ‘Bells of Peace: a WWI Remembrance’. The national tolling of bells honors those who served in The Great War,” said Post 49 member Ken Locke, speaker at the 2018 event.
Bells have been tolled as a traditional expression of honor and remembrance since 1918. November 2018 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting in World War I on the eleventh month, eleventh hour and eleventh day.
“According to records, 4.7 million American families sent their sons and daughters off to World War I and 116,516 Americans gave their lives in the war. More than 200,000 were wounded,” said Locke. “For a relatively short war, we paid a very high price.”
“It’s interesting that the president at that time, President Wilson, said that WWI was the war to end all wars. You and I know differently,” Locke stated. “War is always going to be a part of this world until the end of the age – and thank God we still see young men and women willing to go and to serve.”
“We are divided right now – on many levels, but I do believe, deep in my heart, that when the chips are down, America will always get it together,” said Locke. “We can’t go to those World War 1 veterans today and thank them, but they laid their lives on the line and have given us the great heritage we have today, so to them today we say ‘thank you’ and I’m sure somewhere they can hear us – and I’m sure somewhere they are saying ‘Don’t squander it. Don’t mess it up. We paid the price so you could have what you have today.’”
Locke presented Rex Rife with the “Order of Kosciuszko” award. This award is given for exceptional service to God, country and others. Rife, a resident of Pierceton, is the first Vietnam veteran to be presented with this award. Rife served from 1969-1972. He is a past commander of VFW Post 1126 and has served in the honor guard for many years. He is married to his wife, Rhonda, who is also a veteran.
“This person does many acts of service behind the scenes and never asks for recognition,” Locke said of Rife. “One of his greatest accomplishments is celebrating 35 years of sobriety, which he counts as one of the greatest accomplishments of his life.”
When asked if he would like to say anything after being presented with the award, Rife responded, “Nothing, I’m speechless.”
John Sadler, president of McHatton-Sadler Funeral Chapels, presented the Meritorious Service award to the Liberty Sewing Circle. This award is given for outstanding service to veterans and their families above and beyond the call of duty.
“They started ‘Threads of Valor’ quilt awards and those are presented every six months at the Kosciusko County Senior Services building. They started presenting these to veterans in 2014, and to date they have presented these to 250 veterans in recognition of their service,” said Sadler. “The circle is comprised of seven women who recognize those who have served our nation in a very personal way.”
Although not all members of the Liberty Sewing Circle were able to be there, members Karen Smith, Deb Swanson, Kathy Smelt, Jill Smith and Marsha Huffman were in attendance to accept the award on behalf of the group.