By Dan Spalding
WARSAW — First Friday continued its tradition of honoring United States military veterans with a ceremony and other activities in Downtown Warsaw.
In past ceremonies, organizers have focused on veterans from specific branches and eras of history. On Friday, June 4, several dozen more men and women whose service came between 1974 to the present were honored by name as supporters continue to try to specifically remember every veteran who lives in Kosciusko County.
The Lakes Area Community Band warmed up the environment with patriotic music prior to the speech and presentations overseen by Salvation Army Envoy Ken Locke.
Mayor Joe Thallemer introduced the featured speaker, Capt. Kenneth Jackson, who serves as a senior pastor at Shoaff Park Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, and whose family history is steeped in military background.
Jackson paid tribute to several World War II veterans and then later to Marine Lance Cpl. David Fribley, of Warsaw, who died in 2003.
He noted that people view veterans as old and gray, but those who die in combat are often very young men.
“Most of them were boys when they died,” Jackson said. “They gave up two lives. The one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered, old men. They gave up everything for their country, for us. All we can do is remember.”
Rather than mourn, Jackson echoed others who urged Americans to thank God and celebrate “that such men lived” and “served us.”
Veterans have provided and ensured our freedoms, he said.
“Freedom is part of the DNA of Americans. People in other countries can’t really appreciate the freedoms that we have. This country was born with a cause of freedom,” Jackson said.
First Friday also featured a large community art project along Buffalo Street that was organized by Nathan Underneath and The True Art Company.
About half a dozen artists worked on the six-panel painting Friday night that included the famous battle scene image from Iwo Jima.
Brandon Eads, with The True Art Company, said they chose the image because it carries a universal meaning.
“I wanted to give back to the veterans,” Eads said.