Red, white and blue balloons were seen in the skies near the American Legion this past weekend as Post 361 held its Veteran's Day ceremony which ended with letting about 100 balloons fill the sky.
The event, held in honor of all veterans, has a special place in the hearts of all that attended because of what the significance of the day means to them.
“It is really a special ceremony because it honors all of the veterans that have fought and served their country. The ceremony held on Memorial Day is to remember the lives lost and while we do that as well on Veteran's Day, this is a ceremony held for those of us that made it home,” Jessie Maldonado, post commander said.
The ceremony was attended by a diverse group of people, including many young people who came to support their family members and show their respect for the service of area men and women so that those in attendance might have the freedoms and liberties they enjoy today.
“The crowds at these ceremonies have changed over the years and because of the current war in Iraq, younger families are being affected and we have younger veterans coming home that take part in the ceremonies and also have friends in the same age group that support their efforts,” Maldonado said.
Special guest speaker at the ceremony, David W. Stalter, who grew up in Ennis before being sent to Vietnam, knows firsthand the cost that comes with service.
Having lost both legs during battle, he offered his thoughts as to being a veteran.
“It is a terrible price that many have paid and continue to pay but when I am asked if I think the consequences were worth my actions, my answer is always the same, most definitely, yes,” Stalter said.
Stalter went on to explain that he is so patriotic because he considers the best things he has ever done to be serving his country, as well as being a grandfather and great-grandfather.
Speaking for all veterans, he commented on the things that people can do throughout the rest of the year to honor those who served, specifically the one thing that means the most to them.
“The one thing I think that all of us veterans really appreciate from time to time is just knowing that someone cares and that what we did matters to someone. I am sometimes thanked by people I don't even know for my sacrifices and it is an honor every time it happens. It means a lot to know that we are remembered and that what we have done and what we continue to do is appreciated,” he said.
He also talked about the importance of groups like the American Legion and what they offer to veterans and the community.
“The American Legion does more than just provide a club for veterans to hang out in. We are active in the community with the youth by offering programs for them to be involved in as well as providing an experienced opinion for those thinking about joining the service,” he said.
He went on to share with the crowd the importance of having a place where veterans know they can go to receive help from other veterans.
“There were a lot of things promised to veterans that they didn't receive and the American Legion recognized that and has evolved from that point to help with every day needs and services. We are a community and a family in times when that kind of support is needed,” he said.
Stalter, who has been used by the Army as a motivational speaker to travel to areas where soldiers are being cared for to reassure them that there is life after an amputation, enjoys giving his account of service and his definition of a hero.
“I think a hero is anyone that serves or has served in any branch of the service that gets up every day and puts on that uniform to fulfill their duties, not knowing what the day will hold. It doesn't just have to be the one that escapes the bullets and the danger,” he said.
Prior to the end of the ceremony and the release of the balloons, the crowd was reminded of those who have never come home — either being missing in action or as a prisoner of war — by the empty chair placed in honor at the center of the room.