“People receive a letter in the mail and it would begin something like, ‘Your country sends you greetings,’ and that was the invitation to join the armed forces if you hadn’t already joined,” recalled Mike Kelly, Post 85 American Legion Commander.
“Shortly after, you received a little box in the mail from a Gillette razor company that congratulated you on becoming a man,” Kelly said. “That was your eighteenth birthday present.”
Perry’s Memorial Ceremony featured a number of guests, ranging from vocal performances by Ms. Esther Puderbaugh and Dr. Randy McCaulley, to speakers recalling Vietnam stories and addressing the 100th anniversary of World War I.
A 20-by-30-foot flag was presented to the students of the Perry High School by the American Legion Post 85 in memory of Mr. Paul Bales on Nov., 11, 2014. Bales was a veteran of the Vietnam War, working specifically with the McDonnell Douglas F4C Phantom aircraft.
The flag stood as a backdrop throughout the ceremony.
“I think this program gives back to our veterans and our community, and I think it is a great honor to serve our country,” Bonnie Ikerd, attendee said.
Ikerd’s husband, Dale Ikerd, served in the Vietnam War. He was proud of what he did, Ikerd recalled on behalf of her husband.
During the ceremony, Presiding Officer from the Desert Storm, Kevin Jacobs, Dallas County American Legion Commander, introduced different speakers.
Mike Kelly, Post 85 American Legion Commander spoke of his experience in the Vietnam War.
Kelly recalled moments of his time during the Vietnam war: witnessing terror on the face of a man who just wanted to go home, sharing a urine sample cup with two other men who became shy, all of whom later became soldiers, holding the phone up to a soldier who told his mom he was okay, despite losing his arm, and standing in a cigarette-filled restroom, watching soldiers lean pass around liquor bottles.
“I walked over and opened the door [to the restroom],” Kelly recalled. “It was nothing but white tile from ceiling to floor; walls and everything. I couldn’t see the ceiling on account of the cigarette smoke, and in that room were soldiers just coming back from Nam’, lined up along the walls.”
“No one was speaking; they were passing around liquor bottles, one by one, no one was saying a word. We’re talking about guys that a matter of hours were in the middle of hot, steaming jungles, taking care of their buddies, watching each other’s back so that they could get home.”
“That made a real impression on me,” Kelly said. “I never got a chance to talk to any of those guys, but everyone of the guys I mentioned in this short speech, I don’t know their names, but I can still see their faces.”
Before Ron Leber, Korean War, BFW Post 2060 Commander, completed a reading regarding about Memorial Day and the 100th Anniversary of World War 1, he addressed the crowd.
“On Memorial Day we honor our fallen, but we must embrace the feelings of honor, patriotism, and pride,” Leber read.
Leber asked those in the audience who served as well as family members of loved ones who served to stand up be recognized.
“I thank you [soldiers] for answering the call of duty for our nation, you have made our armed forces the most feared and respected in the world, thank you,” Leber said. “I think you [family members] for your sacrifices, we know you’ve lived through difficult times and often take in the heavy burden of keeping the home fires burning, I thank you for all that you have down for us.”
Leber spoke on the sacrifice of those who have served in our nation.
“The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they all shared several fundamental character qualities: they possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty, and integrity. These qualities are needed to serve a cause greater than ones self,” Leber said.
“Many of them didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields, many didn’t even volunteer, they didn’t go to war because they loved fighting, they were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nations cause because they wanted to protect the nation that has given them so much.”
Following Leber, a roll-call took place by both Kelly and Leber.
After, Dr. McCaulley performed “Some Gave All” by Billy Ray Cyrus before the Retire of Colors.
The Legion and VFW Honor Guard finished the ceremony outside with the Firing of Ceremonial gun salute.