Boundary County is justifiably proud of the many veterans who have served our country in times of war as well as in times of peace. The November 11 Veteran's Day tributes to those who served and those who have fallen were touching reminders of the sacrifice many American citizens and their families have made over the past 233 years to preserve our freedom and our way of life in the United States.
Beginning at 11am at Veteran's Memorial Park in downtown Bonners Ferry, the reverberant strains of Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" echoed throughout the gathering of cold-hardy veterans, citizens and children who attended the annual Veteran's Day ceremony.
Sponsored and coordinated by the American Legion Boundary Post 55, retired Lt. Col. Tim Wilson welcomed the crowd. The Honor Guard consisting of members of the US Border Patrol posted the colors. Pastor Stan Martin said the opening prayer beneath the largest American flag in Boundary County which fluttered in the chilly breeze.
Lt. Col. Wilson asked for a moment of silence to honor the fallen soldiers and civilians at the recent incident at Ft. Hood. Jan Klopfenstein sang "The Star Spangled Banner" beautifully, the last notes of the cherished phrase "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave" lingering in the solemn silence. Captain Ozzie Osborn led the Pledge of Allegiance followed by Bonners Ferry Fire Chief, Pat Warkentin, clad in traditional Scottish garb, who left few eyes dry with his bagpipe solo singing the haunting "Amazing Grace."
Lt. Col. Wilson drew the audience's attention to the empty POW/MIA chairs that were present, reminding the spectators that the empty chairs represented those who had not returned from combat. A chorus of youngsters from Cornerstone Christian School, under the direction of Dennis Shelton who accompanied the group on the guitar, sang a medley of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," spoke the Pledge of Allegiance and concluded the presentation with "America the Beautiful" accompanied by one of the youngsters who ably played the harmonica. The students' presentation concluded memorably with one child declaring, "One Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Senator Shawn Keough addressed the crowd, saying that she was honored to speak at the ceremony. She reminded the audience that on November 11, 1918, World War I came to an end with an armistice. Now known as Veteran's Day, she said that this was a day to remember and commemorate the servicemen and women who served and are still serving the country. She admonished the audience to stay conscious of the many freedoms we have in America that are preserved by our military. She concluded her speech with a very adamant and heartfelt, "Thank you, veterans."
At this point, members of American Legion Boundary Post 55 performed a flag burning rite in order to respectfully retire flags that were worn and frayed. Chaplain Mike Ashby said a prayer and Pastor Stan Martin gave the final benediction. The Honor Guard retired the color as "Taps" echoed throughout Veteran's Plaza.
Later that day, the student body at Bonners Ferry High School, along with local veterans and interested community members converged in Becker Auditorium.
American Legion Boundary Post 55 Chaplain Mike Ashby addressed the packed auditorium with a brief but powerful message. Chaplain Ashby called for a spotlight to be shone on the stage as the curtains opened to reveal the American flag flanked by several local veterans, representing a variety of armed forces, standing at attention. Chaplain Ashby reminded the students that the flag means justice, liberty and happiness and that the freedoms that they, as citizens of the United States of America enjoy, were paid for by veterans who gave their lives in defense of the country and other countries around the globe. He said that the Unites States was founded by young people rising up against an old tyranny believing that men and women have a right to decide for themselves the course of their own lives. The American flag, he said, holds a great significance to the oppressed of the world and that we as Americans must defend our ideals.
"Our warriors are what stands between us and shackles," he emphasized.
Chaplain Ashby pointed out that the one of the soldiers onstage was holding an American flag that had honored Sgt. Josh Kirk of Bonners Ferry who recently lost his life.
"The price of keeping liberty alive is very expensive," admonished Chaplain Ashby. "But the liberties of our country are worth defending. Armistice Day is the day to celebrate and thank and honor every man and woman who has served in the armed forces. Today is the day to thank them for their courage and their sacrifices. It is easy to take liberty for granted when you have never had it taken from you, but these brave folks have been the mightiest defenders of our country and deserve our gratitude. Today is the day to thank a veteran."
At the conclusion of his talk, the audience erupted with a standing ovation not only for Chaplain Ashby but for the veterans both on the stage and in the audience who returned home to remind the rest of us of those who did not have the opportunity to return.