Celebration Plaza was packed Saturday evening with community members paying tribute to the fallen and respect for those who have served during a special dedication and unveiling ceremony.
The occasion was a more solemn one, bringing a tear to many an eye at the ringing of the bell as each local hero who was killed in action was named; each name and the year they paid the ultimate price in service to their country is listed on three of the end caps of the walls of Hopkins County Veterans Memorial. The Marine Corps League and Military Coalition lowered the flag, played Taps and and rendered a three-volley salute was played as well. Alina Tatum Sanders sang the National Anthem.
County Judge Robert Newsom noted that the country was founded not only by those who fought for our freedom, but also on a “prayerful society that honored God,” as he opened a prayer of thanks for America and protection for those “who stand for right and truth throughout the world.”
“I say it all the time, Veterans Day shouldn’t just be on a Monday in November, it should be every day. We have veterans that allow us to do this. Some have given the ultimate sacrifice to allow us to do this, to have the freedoms we have. That’s why it’s so wonderful when there are fitting tributes and reminders that Veterans Day shouldn’t just be on a Monday in November, it should be on a Wednesday in December and a Tuesday in July and every day, because there are veterans who live every day with the sacrifices they made. There are veterans who suffer physical and mental disabilities as a result of the service that they have rendered for us to have the freedoms that we enjoy every day. if they live and struggle with that every day, we should have something to remind them every day what our veterans, our bravest women and men have done for us and continue to do for us every day,” Congressman John Ratcliffe said.
He said while there is nothing that we as civilians can do to adequately repay or thank veterans for their suffering and sacrifices for us, memorials such as those on the Sulphur Springs square, stand as a reminder daily of what they’ve done.
Ratcliffe said in light of their work, it’s appropriate that the new being unveiled Saturday features not just a disabled veteran, one who lost a limb, but also his service dog. He noted the valuable role a service dog play in the field, including in bringing down ISIS leaders, as well as their service to veterans who return home.
Mickey and Barbara McKinsie were recognized not only for contributing “a large sum of money to get the ball rolling” and encourage others to donate to the construction of the $1.2 million veterans memorial, but whose recent donation also made the statue of the disabled veteran and service dog possible. They unveiled the bronze statue, located on the bench in front of the water fall, behind the memorial stones honoring local veterans who have served in the military.
“It’s so fitting to me that Veterans Day comes so close to Thanksgiving, because it’s with thanks giving that we are all here today. It’s a time for honor of our family to take part in this special gathering,” Mickey McKinsie said, noting the service of members of his family.
Barbara McKinsie noted how the war affected her father, a member of the Greatest Generation, mentally disabling him. Thanks to the VA, a very strong and determined spouse, and the right medication, he lived to be a happy 92.
“Whether you have family members or not that are closely linked to the military is beside the point. It’s that we owe so much to those people that are standing guard right now and those who have paid that ultimate sacrifice. When you meet someone who is a vet, always go up and say thank you, thank you so much for your service,” Barbara McKinsie said.
“This is for the vets here today, and there are a bunch,” she continued. “Thank you for your sacrifice you gave your strength, your youth and time. You did a job not many will. You deserved our respect and you do still. Though you didn’t give your live you were a willing soul. Only your brothers in combat your suffering they truly know. We love that you are here with us and honor each and every one of you. A grateful nation appreciates every internal and external scar that wrote upon the slate of you, each one of so brave. You came back to us here, but you will never be the same. For you leaned to bare the weight of defending freedom’s call. But you did come back, and that is what we give thanks for most of all.”
Also recognized were the veterans memorial and ball committee members; Pam Elliott, who first had the idea for a statue to show the many things that a returning soldier might face and who remains actively involved with the Veterans Memorial Committee by serving as chair of the committee; John Parsons, the Kansas artist who designed and crafted the statue; Clayton McGraw, who had the vision and got the ball rolling for the memorial; and the numerous individuals and businesses who have contributed to the memorial over the years.
The occasion was marked with a flyover. Also featured as a speaker was Hopkins County Veterans Service Officer Danny Davis.
A representative from Senator Bob Hall’s office presented Elliott with a flag that’d flown over the capital in appreciation for all of her work honoring veterans.
Afterward, hot dogs, drinks and chips donated for the occasion were served free to the community.