20th Annual Veterans Day Celebration honors veteran community

Kiley Wellendorf - Staff
An audience member stands during the “A Tribute to the Armed Forces” performance led by Jen Nelson and performed by select choir. Members were encouraged to stand when they heard their branch song. PHOTO BY KILEY WELLENDORF/THE PERRY CHIEF

Veterans were honored during the 20th annual Veterans Day Celebration hosted by the Perry High School on Friday, Nov. 10. Many filled the Perry Performing Arts Center to honor those who have served and sacrificed on the eve of Nov. 11’s Veterans Day.

“It [the program] started in 1989,” explained Tom Lipovac, PCSD Student Activities and Services Director. “We had three Social Studies teachers and we invited three veterans to speak; twenty years ago, one of those veterans said it’s a shame there’s no community program, so I walked down the hallway and talked to our Student Council Director at the time, Linda Kaufman.”

The program started out small and has grown since, Lipovac commented.

Friday’s program began with morning refreshments sponsored by Dallas County Hospital before the start of the 29th annual PHS Social Studies Department Veterans Day Panel Presentation.

This year’s panel was organized by Social Studies teachers, Mr. Gary Overla and Mr. John Fulton, and the panel was made by veterans

Both took turns asking the panel of veterans Ken Scar, Bill Robertson, Mahlon Conaway, Travis Murphy, Ron Leber, and Matthew Bramer.

Soldiers were asked a round of questions by Overla and Fulton, diving into topics of when they were first drafted to pieces of the U.S. they were excited to come back to.

“In 2001 when I got in, I was supposed to actually ship off by 9/11 and we still wrote letters back and forth,” Travis Murphy recalled following a question regarding letters kept from the service. “My wife still has every single letter that we wrote back to each other during the time period.”

Soldiers were asked about their location placements and the hardships that followed.

“During the war in Europe, our living conditions was wherever you stopped and wherever you dug a hole or found some place to get in low ground,” Veteran Mahlon Conaway described. “Living condition was bad, getting clean clothes happened whenever you got off the lines and if it was raining, it was muddy an hour later so it didn’t matter.”

Audience members were allowed to participate at the ending of the panel. Veterans were asked what part of the United States they were excited to come home to, or what they missed while they were away.

Bill Robertson was ready to come home to his family, he said, while Veterans, Ron Leber and Matthew Bramer were excited to get their hands on specific items: a McDonald’s Big Mac or a glass of milk.

Following the panel, the beginning of the 20th annual Veterans Day Celebration began.

The Posting of the Colors and Veterans Procession were the first events of the ceremony, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag led by Mahlon Conaway, and The Star Spangled Banner performed by select choir and Jenn Nelson, Director.

“It’s simply a way to give back to our veterans and to people who have sacrificed so much in their lives,” Lipovac explained.

A tribute was paid to The Wilson Family, the Dallas County family of five experienced tragedy during World War II when they lost three sons to war: Dale R. Wilson, Daniel S. Wilson and Claiborne Wilson, Jr.

Photojournalist and Soldier, Ken Scar, is the great-nephew of the Wilson brothers. Scar’s grandmother is Darlene, the twin-sister of Dale.

“The Wilson family suffered greatly during World War 2, but they were just like many other families in America during that time,” Scar said.

The three brothers have headstones in Violet Hill Cemetery, but only Jr. is buried in Perry.

“We never really talked about those three brothers, but I never knew the extent of sacrifice that this family endured until much later in life,” Scar said.

The Wilson Family received a special recognition by Gene Peel, a member of the Perry Historic Preservation Committee.

“Many of us were not aware of the great sacrifice endured by former Perry residents, Clabe and Leora Wilson,” Peel said. “Only gold-star parents and families of loved ones lost in the service for the country can understand the grief and agony of such a loss.”

Scar says an impromptu family reunion occurred when members came forward about attending the Friday event.

“I’ve always wanted to come and honor those three brothers since I’ve been in the army,” Scar said. “I used to come here [Perry] every summer when I was a kid and spend the summers on my grandparents farm - Iowa has a special place in my heart.”

Scar’s sister, parents, cousins, and more traveled over to event, and lastly visited the headstones.

“I think it meant the world to see her [Grandmother, Darlene] brothers honored,” Scar said.

The ceremony honored many through different portions of the program.

Mayor Jay Pattee read St. Crispin’s Day: “Band of Brothers,” before a slide show was played sharing images of Perry’s band of brother’s and sisters.

“We came up with the idea initially to just have pictures turned in,” Lipovac explained about the history of the slide show. “That’s grown from about 70 pictures to 200 pictures.”

Musical performances were made by Jay and Jan Pattee, performing Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” IHSMA All-State Breanna Penenger and Jenn Nelson performed “Danny Boy by arr. Knowles, and a farewell performance was made by Angel Escobar and Karen Romero, playing “Taps” by Daniel Butterfield.

Guest Speaker, Mike Kelley, American Legion Commander, also spoke during the program.

“I hope each of us will hold our nation’s veterans in our hearts, in our spirits every day, 365 days a year,” Powell said during the final remarks. “As we look at the future, let us renew our commitment that we will never forget their sacrifice and that we will always be here to support them when they return.”