As president of his class, Cohl Moore knew he had a responsibility and duty to participate in the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center’s annual Veterans Day program.
What he didn’t know is he would be in such esteemed company.
Several hundred people, including many local veterans, attended the program Monday morning at the city’s war memorial at Gaiser Park.
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Sitting to one side of Moore was Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman, and on the other were two military veterans, Larry Bothe and Don Furlow.
“I felt very honored,” Moore said. “I thank them for our freedom.”
Moore had the honor of leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and helping his fellow class officers lay a wreath in front of the memorial.
It was an experience that made a major impact on him, he said.
Although he doesn’t have any veterans in his immediate family, Moore said he thinks it’s important to show appreciation to all veterans for their service.
“We wouldn’t have the freedoms we do without them,” he said.
As part of the program, the sixth grade choir performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a medley of armed service songs from all five branches. Veterans stood to be recognized when their song was played.
Members of the sixth grade band also performed several patriotic songs.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 and American Legion Post 89 in Seymour provided the honor guard, and VFW Chaplain Gary Dyer gave the invocation and benediction. Dyer is a U.S. Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War.
Dyer paid tribute to all those who have come before and all those who serve still.
“We are ever mindful of the fact that many of our soldiers sacrificed their very lives on the field, on the seas and the air where the battles of war were fought,” he said. “We remember them today with great reverence and a great thanksgiving.”
As he closes out the last couple of months of his time as mayor, Luedeman said participating in events like the Veterans Day program has made his 12 years in office so memorable.
“We’re here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication and to say ‘Thank you’ for their sacrifices,” Luedeman said. “The service members we honor today come from all walks of life, but they share several fundamental qualities.
“They possesses courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication in duty and integrity, all of the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than themselves,” he added. “They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways and extreme times.”
Gathering as a community to honor veterans is “one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today and every day,” Luedeman said.
That pride was felt by all of those in attendance, especially Bothe, who entered the Army after college and served from 1965 to 1970, achieving the rank of captain while in the reserves.
He later learned to fly commercial and private aircraft and currently is the curator of the Freeman Army Airfield Museum in Seymour.
Bothe said honoring veterans should include all branches of the military: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard.
But it also should be about thanking all of their families, too.
“When a person is off serving in the military, their families are really serving with them even if they are here at home,” he said. “Families make amazing sacrifices when military folks are deployed, so think about them.”
The city’s war memorial is a great tribute to those who served, Bothe said. Surrounding it are more than 2,000 bricks with veterans’ names on them. One of the bricks has Bothe’s name, and another has the name of his dad, who served in World War II.
Bricks can still be added to the memorial by contacting Furlow at Freeman Municipal Airport. Furlow, a veteran of the U.S. Marines, serves as chair of the memorial committee.
Being in the Army taught Bothe a lot of lessons.
“It taught me, first of all, to be neat and organized,” he said. “Like a lot of young people, I was kind of a slob, but in the military, they don’t put up with that.”
He also learned respect for authority.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t speak up. That doesn’t mean you can’t say what you need to say, but you have to learn to do it with respect,” he said. “I learned to do that, and it has served me well all my life.”
Bothe also received educational benefits from being a veteran and learned to fly.
“That’s one way we help our veterans,” he said. “We make sure that when they return to civilian life, they can get good jobs, get an education, learn to do a skill or a trade so they can earn a decent living.”
As the curator of the Freeman Army Airfield Museum, Bothe said he loves sharing his knowledge for and passion of the military and World War II and the history of Seymour and Freeman Field.
The museum is open to the public every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.
Bothe advised the students when they see a person in uniform or a person wearing a veteran’s hat to take the time to show gratitude.
“Take a moment, look them in the eye and say, ‘Thank you for your service,’” he said. “People say that to me often these days, and I really appreciate that somebody cares.”