Veterans Day Celebration at the Missouri Veterans Home
Veterans Day, November 11 was celebrated at the Missouri Veterans Home on Saturday afternoon. Brad Haggard, Administrator, opened the celebration thanking the veterans present for their service.
“You all answered the call and stepped forward to demand freedom and democracy, no matter the conflict, your service allows us to gather this afternoon to celebrate.” Haggard said. “We could never thank you enough, or express our deep appreciation. But we will always give our best to give our thanks. It is our honor and privilege to serve you as you have served our country.”
Tim Ashby, the VA home supply manager, gave the invocation and the singing Vets of the Cameron Veterans Home led the gathered assembly in the pledge and the National Anthem.
State Representative Pat Conway, a member of the Missouri Veterans Board, Missouri State Representative, and Vietnam Veteran, was present to speak to the assembled crowd. Conway told those assembled the Veterans Commission is working toward keeping the homes open as they are and to improve them as they can.
“We on the Veterans Commission feel our biggest asset, no matter what facility we are talking about, is our employees, who do such a wonderful job in helping our veterans, helping their families and giving them what this country has meant to give them throughout our history, “ Conway said. “The respect those veterans deserve and guarantee people take care of those who risked their lives to serve our country. To make sure there are people who are there to sustain them, that is our mission.”
Conway went on to thank all the veterans for their service.
Gary Summers of the Veterans Assistance League spoke to the assembled crowd about the role the assistance league plays in providing quality of life items above and beyond what is provided by funding from the state and federal government. The assistance league spends about $80,000 a year on different items for the veterans at the home, which includes the vehicles to transport veterans to events, televisions, computers and many other items to help provide a better quality of life for the veterans at the home.
Summers presented Neva Woody and Max Thompson, who hold an annual clay shoot to benefit the home with a cooler and special dog tags in thanks for the work they do every year to raise money for the assistance league.
Woody then went on to present the Veterans Assistance League with a check from the annual clay shoots for $30,000. According to Summers, this is by far the largest fundraiser of the year.
The keynote speaker for the celebration was Major General Wayne Pierson, Retired. Pierson was born and raised in Cameron and joined the Missouri Army National Guard in 1971 and served as an enlisted soldier in St. Joseph for four years. After being commissioned as an officer Pierson served as Company Commander in St. Joseph, Executive Officer in Lexington, and attended Senior War College, which he graduated from in 2000. Pierson was then appointed as Brigade Commander in Lexington. He was then promoted to Brigadier General and served in Leavenworth, Kansas. Pierson went on to serve as Assistant Adjutant General- Army in Jefferson City and in November of 2006 he was promoted to Major General and assigned as Commanding General, 35th Infantry Division in Fort Leavenworth. Pierson retired in September of 2010 after 38 years nine months of service to our country.
Pierson currently serves on the Board of Directors of several different organizations in Northwest Missouri, including the Veterans Assistance League of Cameron and lives in Maryville with his wife Margaret.
General Pierson began by asking all veterans to raise their hands and thanked them for their service and for making our armed services the most respected in the world. He then asked family members to raise their hands, thanking them for the support they provided to their family members as their veterans served.
“The service members we honor here today come from all walks of life and they share several fundamental qualities, qualities that actually set them apart,” Pierson said. “Those being, courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty, and integrity. All those qualities are necessary to serve an organization much larger than just one.”
Pierson went on to talk about how many of the veterans did not ask to go to fight, but went, called by a duty and a purpose bigger than themselves.
“President Reagan said in one of his speeches, Freedom is a fragile thing and it is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Pierson said.
Pierson said every generation from the Revolutionary War to today have answered the call to serve. They follow in the footsteps of the generations past.
Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day to celebrate the end of World War I, which they believed would be the war to end all wars. As wars continued and veterans continued to serve, veterans lobbied Congress to make it Veterans Day to honor all veterans in all wars, to honor all who served.
Pierson spoke of the fact that throughout our history, we have honored veterans, awarded medals, erected monuments, named buildings after them.
“But nothing can ever replace the void left behind a fallen service member’s family. No amount of medals or ribbons can comfort those left behind, “ Pierson said. “Our gathering is a small spark in the flame of pride that burns across our nation, and every day it burns. It is not a lot, but we can honor those who made sacrifices so we can live in freedom.”
“To all those who have served in our nation’s military, know we remember and we honor all,” Pierson said. “May God bless our service members who serve today and may God bless America.”
The singing Veterans then sang Our Country Tis of Thee, America the Beautiful, God Bless America to conclude the celebration.