Col. Chris Reichart, who retired after 35 years of service in the US Army, told Linn students at Thursday’s Veterans Day assembly that Veterans Day is a special day set aside to remind the …
Col. Chris Reichart, who retired after 35 years of service in the US Army, told Linn students at Thursday’s Veterans Day assembly that Veterans Day is a special day set aside to remind the nation of the sacrifices of all those who have served in the Armed Forces.
“You should be grateful for these courageous men and women every day,” said Westphalia native Reichart, who with his wife, Tammy, lives in Bonnots Mill. “You should always thank a veteran for their service but one of the best ways you can honor their sacrifices is to be an active citizen. Seek to truly learn and understand the constitution; it’s what sets our country apart from all the other countries in the world. Being a U.S. citizen requires action, from being an educated voter to an active participant in government, from local to state to federal. To some of you, it will mean serving in the Armed Forces and taking the oath that all the veterans here have taken. It means becoming one of us.”
Why is this important?
In 1967, Ronald Reagan, famously said, “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom, and then lost it, have never known it again.”
Reichart said the veterans of this great country have been the vanguard of freedom throughout the 245 years of our country’s history. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardians of the armed services have protected our freedoms both at home and abroad.
“Every generation has seen everyday citizens take an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic and to bear true faith and allegiance to that very document that our forefathers penned and signed in Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, the foundation of the greatest nation on earth,” said Reichart.
The veterans assembled here and the 18 million other veterans across this great land have sacrificed tremendously to ensure our freedoms. Since the turn of the 20th century, more than 38 million service members fought in seven wars, from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. More than 400,000 of them never made it home.
Reichart noted that Thursday marked the 100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In 1921, an American soldier — his name “known but to God” — was buried on a Virginia hillside overlooking the Potomac River and Washington, D.C. The burial site of this unknown World War I soldier in Arlington National Cemetery became known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The neoclassical, white marble sarcophagus depicts three carved Greek figures representing Peace, Victory, and Valor. Inscribed on the back of the Tomb are the words: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
The Tomb sarcophagus stands above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of World War I. To the west are the crypts for an Unknown Soldier from World War II and the Korean War. A white marble slab flush with the plaza marks each crypt, Reichart noted.
In the following years, thousands of people flocked to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which soon came to symbolize the sacrifices of all American service members.
In 1926, Congress established a military guard to protect the Tomb during daylight hours. Since midnight on July 2, 1937, the Army has maintained a 24-hour guard over the Tomb. Sentinels of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, “The Old Guard,” assumed these duties on April 6, 1948, maintaining a constant vigil regardless of weather conditions.
“Thirty years ago, I stood in awe of the murals painted in the dining hall of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY,” said Reichart. “Those murals depicted the greatest military leaders in battle throughout the history of the world and stood as an inspiration for all the cadets as they aspired to be great leaders. Since that time, I’ve learned that the sacrifices of every service member contribute to a much greater mural. That mural is comprised of the courage and sacrifices of millions of individuals that contributed to the defense of our country, extraordinary people like the ones you see here today. We come from all backgrounds, every race, ethnicity, gender, and religion, all serving to preserve the freedoms our founding fathers guaranteed to us in the constitution.”
Veterans, Reichart added, are not the only ones deserving of thanks. “Many, if not all of them, had the support and love of their families, allowing them to do what needed to be done,” he said. “Those families deserve our gratitude and thanks on this day and every day. Thank you again to all the veterans, past, present, and future.”
Students are the future and Reichart said they will determine the trajectory of this country by what is learned today and done tomorrow.
“Thomas Jefferson said it best, “All tyranny needs is for people of good conscience to remain silent.’ I’m counting on you to not remain silent,” said Reichart, who graduated from West Point in 1994 with a degree in engineering, and earned his Master’s Degree in International Public Policy from John Hopkins School of International Studies in 2008.
His military career included service in Korea, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He ended his tenure in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he worked on classified programs for the Army.
Also at Thursday’s assembly, Vivien Baker was honored as the winner of the Voice of Democracy essay contest.
“Veteran’s Day is a very important remembrance day of the people who both died and survived the wars that our country has endured,” she wrote. “It honors those who fought and sacrificed their lives for our safety and freedom. Recently, this country has experienced many losses and difficulties. In the past few years, the entire world has faced an enormous amount of tragedy, restrictions, and confusion. Many of these events we cannot control. However, there are some ways that the citizens of America can contribute to the rehabilitation of the U.S. A few examples of what we could do to help make America stronger are being respectful toward others, participating in our communities, and appreciating the liberties that this country possesses.
“Respect is more than just honoring others and their opinions. Respect is something that you earn, something you deserve. Recently, this country’s culture has changed and many people have not accepted the adaptation of our country. The world is lacking in respect, forgiveness, and the ability to accept. Respecting others takes practice and discipline, especially if surrounded by a disrespectful friend group. In order to make the world a better place, we have to be willing to change into a more kindly and respectful society. We have to be accepting and open-minded because, in reality, we are not worthy to critique anyone. On this earth, we are all the same. We are all worth the same, no matter what amount of money you have, no matter what your heritage is, we are all equal, and we must treat each other as such. The veterans who have served our country are very experienced when it comes to respecting others, especially those of higher rank. Respect is a large part of developing character and becoming a positive influence in your community helps earn respect and develop people skills.
“Another way we the people could help the United States of America is by participating in our communities. You do not have to donate millions of dollars to charity, or become a spy to help the military; all you could do is try to be slightly more involved in your community. If everyone were to contribute just a little bit more time to their individual community, that community would eventually grow and begin to thrive. Some ways citizens could contribute to their community are picking up trash, becoming involved in the school district, adopting a soldier, donating to local charities, or by simply writing a letter to a senior citizen. We all belong to our own community and because of the liberties that this country has, we have the right to believe what we wish to believe and speak freely about the problems this country is facing.
The U.S Constitution gives us the right to believe in whatever religion we wish to believe in. It gives us the ability to speak freely and openly about what we believe in. We even have the right to vote on our leaders and decisions. Many U.S citizens have begun to live in a rut, stuck in the same routine day after day after day. They forget they have a family to love, people to lead, and a life to live for. They forget that so many citizens sacrificed a normal life for themselves just to give others freedom and liberation. If we were to take a step back and learn to appreciate the liberty that we have, we would realize just how much we have to live and be grateful for.
“Tens of thousands of men and women have given their lives to keep the freedom and the luxury of living in the United States. They witnessed war, wounds, and death; but they also witnessed bravery, courage, and determination. Lately, this country has been focusing on the negatives and all the things we are doing wrong. What would happen if we focused on what we could be doing to make things better? There are many ways that we, as citizens, can contribute to the rehabilitation of the United States such as being respectful towards those around us, becoming involved in our community, and practicing gratitude towards the freedom that this country has. This country seems to be a rock bottom but that means the only way left to go is up.”
Earning second place was Cole Holtschneider, and third place went to Gibson Tschappler.
The Patriot’s Pen essay contest was won by Carson Kliethermes, with Cayl Bogle earning second, and Miranda Berry taking third.
In his essay, entitled, “What Makes A Good American?” Kliethermes said he believes “that a good American is one who shows love, respect, and loyalty to America and its symbols. However, I also believe that a good American will point out flaws our country makes, such as laws that are unfair to groups of people.
“Americans can show their love for their country by participating in holidays that celebrate big events in America’s history. Some of these holidays include Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day.
“Americans can show their respect for their country by taking care of its symbols and following its laws. One of America’s most important symbols is the American flag. Americans should take proper care of their country’s flag until it is time for it to be retired. Then when it is time for it to be retired, they should give it to a group of people that know how to go about retiring the flags.
“Americans can show loyalty to their country by registering for selective service when you turn 18 or enlisting in one of the branches of the military when you come of age. I believe that there is great honor in serving our country in combat, or in creating tech to better deal with situations that could later arrive.
“I believe that good Americans should stand up against unjust local, state, and federal laws. These laws could impede on groups of peoples’ ability to participate in events or customs that those of a different social class or a different ethnicity are able to take advantage of.
“Past Americans did make quite a few mistakes when making their laws, and these mistakes have definitely affected many people of different social classes and ethnicities.
“However, this was due to their customs during their time, and all we can do is to change these laws to make everything fair and equal among the citizens of America today.
“A good American is one who shows respect, love, and loyalty to their country, but they also stand up to unjust laws in America. They do their best to better themselves and our country as a whole.”
Members of the LHS band played several patriotic songs, students in grades K-6 and the high school choir sang “God Bless the USA,” and the service concluded with the playing of Taps by Gibson Tschappler.
VFW Post 5746 (Linn) and Paul A. Hasenbeck American Legion 317 (Freeburg) members and other veterans in the crowd were recognized and honored for their service.
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