After missing the opportunity to honor veterans last November, members of American Legion Post 487 and VFW Post 3553 gathered with the Chester community on Veterans Day Thursday to recognize those who have done so much to keep America safe and sound.
The event, hosted by Legion Post 487 Commander Randy Werner, featured remarks by Mayor Tom Page of Chester, music by Steve Colonel and the Chester High School Band, and prayers by the Rev. Mike Fogerson and his son, Ridge Fogerson.
"We want to thank everyone for gathering here today to recognize the heroes and the brave men and women of our armed forces," Fogerson said in his invocation.
"We thank God for blessing the soldiers and for their dedication and strength. We thank them for standing together to protect our nation and we bless their families and appreciate their efforts."
Guest speaker state Rep. David Friess of Red Bud, who grew up in Chester and served in Operation Desert Storm with the Air Force, paid tribute to the 13 American Service members who died in the Aug. 26 suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, reading each of their names.
Friess encouraged attendees to find common ground in an effort to make the world a better place.
"When you meet people, look for what you have in common, not for what differences you have," Friess said. "This will bring society together, and not drive it apart."
During the CHS band's rendition of the "Armed Forces Medley," which features the theme songs of each branch of the military, veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and U.S. Coast Guard were asked to stand and salute as their respective flags were presented. This portion of the ceremony was especially moving as a recognition and tribute to the veterans in attendance.
Afterward, a combined color guard of American Legion and VFW veterans retreated to the front lawn to conduct what is fondly known as "A Salute to Departed Veterans."
Seven members of the color guard fired three blank rounds each in a 21-gun salute, followed by the playing of taps by trumpeters Zach Zappa and Blake Zappa of Chester.
"I want to thank the Boy Scouts, the CHS Band, the American Legion Auxiliary, as well as all of the veterans who are here today to contribute to the program," Commander Werner said during the ceremony.
"Furthermore I want to thank the community for supporting not only this program, but all of the veterans groups in Chester."
After the ceremony, the American Legion Auxiliary served a free lunch of homemade beef vegetable soup, crackers, jumbo hot dogs, chips, iced tea, soda, and coffee.
The Legion Auxiliary is collecting multipacks of Kleenex boxes for all four Chester schools through the end of this week. Drop off donations in the large collection box in the Legion lobby by Nov. 20.