By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
As the first of 11 tolls of the courthouse bell rang out, someone barked “atten HUT,” and the old soldiers and sailors scattered around the county war memorial snapped to attention and saluted the flag.
The veterans had gathered Monday morning to commemorate Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor those who have served in the nation’s military.
“Our flag is not at half staff,” VFW honor guard commander Roger Bayak told the small group of local residents gathered on the sidewalk along Main Street. “As President Wilson determined, it was a day of celebration, not one of mourning, not one of sadness, because our veterans would be coming home.”
Bayak recounted many of the nation’s wars and the number of casualties they produced: Civil War, 714,000; World War I, 320,000; World War II, 500,000, plus nearly 8,000 Americans who were never accounted for.
“Then Korea, then Vietnam, then Dessert Storm and some others. It simply wouldn’t stop,” Bayak said.
He recounted that four Medal of Honor recipients and one Revolutionary War veteran are buried in Elkhart County cemeteries. They are Orville Chamberlain, Elkhart, a captain in the Civil War; Ruel Johnson, Goshen, a Civil War colonel; Harry Michaels, Milford, a World War II lieutenant; Milo Hascall, brigadier general in the Civil War; and Jacob Lear, Revolutionary War veteran.
Indiana has a long history of sending its sons and daughters to serve in the country’s conflicts, according to Bayak. He said that during the Civil War Indiana provided the most Union troops based on a percentage of population. And even today, there are more troops from Indiana serving in Afghanistan than from other states.
“These commitments suggest that Indiana has always had an inordinate number of patriotic veterans,” Bayak said.
But war has left many veterans from all the past and present conflicts with wounds that are not visible. “The sad part of these numbers is, so far since 9/11, over 5,000 vets have gone to rest in eternity,” Bayak said. “Forty-thousand more are casualties and are damaged for the rest of their lives. For our comrades we have a moral obligation, a duty to thank those who have kept our nation free.
He asked those present to honor the veterans from past conflicts and to also remember the 90,000 members of the military he said are currently serving in harm’s way.
“We reflect on their sacrifice and acknowledge their service,” Bayak said. “They have more than earned our gratitude.”
During the brief service those attending pulled up coat collars and pulled down stocking caps to seek a little protection from the bitter cold wind. Most of the crowd wore military organization hats and jackets adorned with unit patches and insignia from the branch of service they were in.
George Myers’ coat was marked “Korean War Veteran.” He said he spent 12 months in Korea as a Seabee. On Monday he was disappointed at the small turnout at the service.
“It’s really nice,” he said of the service. “It’s just a shame we don’t have more people come to see it.”
Talking about the veterans the service honored, he said, “Our real heroes are under those crosses all over the world.”