Lincoln VFW Veteran’s Day celebration includes Lt. Col. Manes from Mount Pulaski

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[November 13, 2015]  LINCOLN - On Wednesday, the Cronin Brothers VFW Post hosted their annual Veterans Day Celebration at Freedom Hall in Lincoln. The program began at 11 a.m. and was led by Post Commander Michelle Ramlow. After the program, guests were invited to stay for a free ham and bean lunch.

Ramlow opened the day with welcoming remarks, then introduced the various military organizations present. Those organizations included American Legion Post 263, Purple Heart Chapter 159, Sgt. Robert E. Graue Marine Corp. League Det. 1336, Sons of American Legion Post 263, Patriot Guard Riders, Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, the past state president of the Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and the past vice president of the American Legion Post 263 Auxiliary.

After those introductions, Pastor Daniel McQuality of Grace Lutheran Church was called on to deliver the invocation for the day. Following the invocation, Ramlow led the room in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and stood the room at attention during the playing of the National Anthem.

The guest speaker for the day was Lt. Col. Stanley Manes, Active Duty; Army National Guard. He is currently a state training officer at Camp Lincoln. Ramlow said Manes refers to himself as a “Mount Pulaski boy.” His deployments include Afghanistan, Korea, Germany, Republic of Poland, and the Kingdom of Jordan. Manes is also a decorated officer having received the Bronze Star, Joint Service Metal, Combat Infantry Badge, and Basic Airborne Badge.

Manes took the stage saying he felt honored to be among a group of family and friends. He commented that his love for Logan County ran deep in his veins.

He recounted that his father was a Marine in the Korean War era. He joked that when the North Koreans found out his father had gotten his orders to go overseas, they gave up; drawing laughs from the crowd when he said, “He won the war, all by himself.”

Manes commented on the first veteran observance, Armistice Day, that was designated after World War I. He said it was to be the war that ended all wars, “but it did not end all wars.”

He commented on Casimir Pulaski, for whom his hometown is named. He noted that he had recently been in Savannah Georgia, where a monument is erected honoring Pulaski. He noted that Pulaski had been exiled from his country and came to America to fight against tyranny, and gave his life for his new home country.

He spoke about how that the world is still not a safe place, and that tyranny still exists. But America is recognized in the Eastern Countries as a champion of freedom and democracy.

He told a story of a group of soldiers who were deployed to do a “walk about” through some of the Small Eastern Countries to see how things were going. He said on numerous occasions the soldiers were approached and thanked for their service.

He spoke of one man in particular who at 78 years of age had a particular impact on the soldiers. The story went that as a child, this man had played pitch on the streets with American soldiers. A soldier had given him a baseball glove for the game. When the fun and games were over, the then eight-year-old boy, tried to return the glove to the soldier, but the soldier wouldn’t take it back. The little boy determined that the next time an American soldier came to his town, he would give that glove to the soldier so he would be able to play pitch with other children. The now old man had saved that glove for 70 years, but when the soldiers came to his town, he rushed to retrieve it and gave it to the commander.

Manes also spoke about his trip to Poland with great fondness. He said he loved that country, and that country loved the Americans.

Manes said he is often asked how things are going overseas. He said it was still a dangerous place. There is still trouble in Iraq and much of the Middle East. Manes spoke specifically about the Kingdom of Jordan and said that he was in Jordan when ISIS reared its head there. He said Jordan also loves the American soldiers and wants them in the country, wants their help.

Manes commented about the state of the Military saying the U.S. Armed Forces is in good shape. He commented on the young men and women who are currently joining the armed forces. “Those damn kids. We scratch our heads and say ‘our country’s in trouble, these kids don’t get it.’ Let me tell you folks these kids DO get it. Every soldier in my 800 man battalion joined the Illinois Army National Guard to serve their country, all joining after 9-11, they don’t want to fight, they don’t want to die, they don’t want to give their lives, but they are patriots, and they all see the bigger picture that life is more than just themselves.”

He spoke about Veteran’s Day being a time to honor all veterans and asked that all the veterans in the room, please stand to be acknowledged. More than half the room stood. Manes then asked for those who were family members of a veteran to please stand. Again, a large portion of the room stood.

He commented on the strength and courage of the family that keeps things going at home while their soldiers are deployed. Manes has no doubt that he will be deployed again, and he spoke about how it would impact the people he cares about. Andi Hake of the Logan County Alliance has been a close companion to Manes for some time. He commented that when he goes overseas she is the one who stays at home and works and worries, watching the news and wondering if he is alright. He also shared just recently his father, 85 years old, had called him after hearing of deaths overseas in an area where Manes had recently been. Manes said it spurred his father to check on him. “He just wanted to hear my voice,” Manes said.

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Manes moved on, singling out the Vietnam veterans. He said that the amount of love, admiration, and respect he receives as a soldier, is due to the stand America took in the Vietnam War. He commented that what the Vietnam veterans came home to was rough, how that they were shunned. He commented that reaction was reprehensible and added “you guys were there for us.”

At the end of Manes speech, he paid tribute to the fallen soldiers who lost lives in battle. Drawing attention to the display in the center of the stage, and saying it is a small ceremony commonly referred to as the soldiers cross.

All are familiar with the awe-inspiring long straight lines of beautiful white marble stones that are the resting place of those who have served.

Often, however, the first monument of one who has fallen is far more basic, more simple, more personal.

The body of this simple monument is a rifle with a fixed bayonet. In days gone by, it would have been a lance or a sword. But it symbolizes the tools of the trade for those who defend our Nation. And it is a reminder that those tools of that trade are lethal. But this is no longer a weapon, it is a martyr. With its point driven into the ground that the one who once bore it fought so hard to take, or hold, or defend. Silent now, it stands in lonely vigil.

Next are the boots, now empty. Their owners have moved on to that place where footfalls make no sound. Where feet are never too cold or too hot or blistered or soaked. These boots are no longer needed.

Atop the rifle sits a helmet, a symbol of protection. This helmet provided more than protection; it identified the one who bore it as a member of a team (and that is what we all are, we are a team). But in this case, the team of brave men and women place themselves in harm’s way so that the nation may live in safety and peace. The head it once protected is now at rest. This helmet is no longer needed.

Manes deviated from his reading, to bring a personal meaning to the next step in the memorial saying, “And our last addition to the monument is the most personal. These dog tags are from a memorial service for J.P. White, a 19-year old from Ohio whose mom and dad grew up in Mount Pulaski and Chestnut. At 19 years old, he lost his life if Afghanistan.”

He then began reading again.

With these dog tags, we remember when we see a unit dressed in identical uniforms trained to move and act as one entity that each member is an individual. We must remember that each of these monuments, just like each of the white marble stones in that cemetery represent someone’s daughter, someone’s neighbor, someone’s son, or friend.

This is our tribute to those who have fallen. Their fight is done. It is for us the living to carry on, to make the most of the precious gift that they have given us. To live our lives the way that they made possible, free.

Following Manes speech, Ramlow returned to the stage to introduce the laying of the wreath by the Auxiliaries. This year the wreath was brought forward by Ann Miller of the American Legion post 263 Auxiliary, and the president of the VFW Auxiliary, Lois Allen.

The honor guard of the American Legion then assembled outside the front door of Freedom Hall for the 21 gun salute in a 3-shot volley, followed immediately by the playing of Taps.

The program ended with Pastor McQuality delivering the benediction.

After the programs, chairs were quickly moved or put away, and tables arranged so that guests could enjoy the ham and bean lunch provided through the VFW.

[Nila Smith]

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