Patriotic music sung by Nativity of our Lord students and a rifle volley performed by a VFW and AMVET honor guard punctuated a solemn Veterans Day ceremony Friday at the Oneida County courthouse.
County Veterans Service Officer Tammy Walters began the ceremony with a few words about the history of Veterans Day.
Originally called Armistice Day, Veterans Day commemorates the ceasefire "on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" in 1918 that ended in World War I. It was redesignated as Veterans Day June 1, 1954 after a bill creating the federal holiday was signed into law by president Dwight Eisenhower.
In her remarks, Walters took a moment to pay tribute to the late Ray Zastrow, a local veteran who was very involved in organizing Veterans Day and Memorial Day events.
"As you may know, he was very active in many things that involved veterans, including our Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies," Walters said. Even though we will be honoring him at our 2018 Memorial Day ceremony, I would have been remiss not to acknowledge him today because he was always an integral part of the ceremony."
The guest speaker was Tom Jordens, a veteran of the first Gulf War and co-owner and chef at CT's Deli. Originally from Three Lakes, Jordens lived in Sugar Camp while attending high school and joined the Army after graduation, serving from 1985 to 1992.
He said military service runs deep in his family, starting with his grandfather Walter Jordens, who fought in World War II.
"(He) saved his best friend on the frontline as he had his leg blown off and took him back. For the rest of their lives, they were inseparable," Jordens said. "That's a bond that you gain in the military."
Jordens said his stepfather was a former Marine drill instructor, and his military career started at home.
"Every morning during chores, he would recite some cadences," he said. "Your left, your left, your left, right and left, that was the start of our days as we were dragging bales of hay to the cows."
Jordens said an uncle also served and his brother is currently deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army.
"Serving in the armed forces is a job, and like many jobs it has its risks, like a roofer falling off a roof. But no other job asks for the ultimate sacrifice," Jordens said. "Joining the military, for some of us, was a choice, and for some of us, there was not a choice."
Many wonder if they have what it takes to do what is required of a soldier, "but as a team, anything is possible," he said. "The military instills within you a sense of self-pride, respect for others, discipline, confidence and and a code. These are the traits that guide me every day."
He recounted how basic training is the start of a journey of change for those who enter the Army.
"With your best friend, your drill instructor, who was not your best friend," he said with a laugh. "Their job was to break you down and build a soldier, someone who does not question an order, just executes it. He is building a team, one soldier at a time."
He also quoted the Bill Murray character from the movie "Stripes" in saying "the military has a great exercise program."
"They giving hiking a whole new meaning; there are no Cliff bars or smart water, it's a 40-pound rucksack and a canteen of water," Jordens said. "And your so-called hike is now a forced march, and a timed one at that, to make sure you're not slacking."
All of this builds character and a sense of accomplishment, he explained.
"The military has made me the man, the chef and the father I am today," Jordens said, choking back tears. "It builds a life-lasting brotherhood like no other. To each veteran here, no matter where or how long you served, you made a difference. And the military made a difference in you. And let's not forget, all gave some, some gave all."
Prior to the rifle salute performed by members from VFW Post 3143 and AMVETS Post 724, Joe Pozarski was honored for his 19 years service as a volunteer driver of the DAV van that takes veterans to the VA hospital in Iron Moutain, Mich.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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