By Jason Schock
The National Weather Service called Wednesday’s high winds, with gusts reportedly blasting up to 45 miles per hour, “hazardous,” even issuing a tornado watch for much of the region, though school children in Falls City didn’t run for cover, but instead rode a tsunami of patriotic fervor directly into the headwind with their American flags held skyward at full staff, bowed but not broken.
On Veterans Day, they marched south on Stone Street and honored all the men and women who serve, and have served, the country with honor and distinction. Falls City, collectively, once again proved it is proud of its tradition of honoring veterans. Flags adorned seemingly ever corner of downtown Falls City, and the gymnasium at FC High School was filled Wednesday morning in reverence to our nation’s true heroes.
Air Force Veteran Ken Simpson, Commander of American Legion Post 102 and co-chair of the Veteran’s Day Committee, addressed the large crowd.
“Veterans have given us freedom, security and the greatest nation on earth,” he said. “It is impossible to put a price on that. We must remember them. We must appreciate them.”
Simpson has long been the Fire Chief of the FC Fire Dept., but his adult life began in the U.S. Air Force on May 28, 1971 — maybe 24 hours after the FCHS Class of 1971 graduation ceremony.
“The very next day I entered the Air Force on the buddy system with a local insurance salesmen, Ted Godemann,” Simpson said, noting their first biweekly paycheck was 69 bucks.
Simpson served about two and a half years at Bentwaters Royal Air Force Base in England, and one year in Minot, ND, serving as a supply tech and operating a UNIVAC 1050-ii computer.
The computer would fill the space of a classroom (yet contained a total of 32 kilobytes of memory, or what we today refer to as RAM; that’s .03125 of one megabyte – or half the size of one picture scrolling now on www.fcjournal.net) and, Simpson said, the room had to be maintained at a constant 74 degrees. Upon entering the “computer lab,” operators first were required to slip covers over their shoes.
. He will speak at the 11 a.m. Wednesday program at Falls City High School. The Veteran’s Parade will start at 1:30 p.m. and follow Stone Street, from 20th to 13th and conclude with a reception at ShopKo. The dinner and program will begin at 6 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church.
The morning program, held in the high school gym, will include numbers by the FCHS band and chorus and Sacred Heart chorus, as well as a medley performed by a joint chorus from both schools. The FCHS Band is under the direction of John Furrow, the FC chorus is directed by Alisha Sutton and Wesley Farewell directs the Sacred Heart musicians.
Mrs. Maddox introduced keynote speaker Dr. Adrian Lewis, a retired Army major and Professor at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. He spoke at the 11 a.m. program at Falls City High School and again at 7 p.m. at the Stalder Gallery at the Falls City Library and Art Center. The latter program was the opening in the Gallery of the John P. Falter’s original paintings of seven World War II Medal of Honor winners.
Dr. Lewis’ talk at the Gallery was streamed to the veterans’ dinner at the First United Methodist Church.
“Today is a day that we recognize honor and thank the many men and women of the armed forces of the United States — those who served and sacrificed, those who contribute to our freedom and the way of life we enjoy,” Dr. Lewis said at FC High School.
“The world that you live in today is shaped by the world wars that we have fought and the sacrifices that many have made.”
A world-renowned expert on World War II, Dr. Lewis’ writings include his first book, “Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory.” This work is considered the best analysis of the Normandy invasion of June 6, l944, and the horrific Battle for Omaha Beach. Dr. Lewis has taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of North Texas at Denton. His books and articles are used at West Point, the Command General Staff College and the Naval War College. He was a major consultant for PBS’s NOVA program, “D-Day’s Sunken Secrets.”
Working with active duty Army and Air Force officers, Dr. Lewis specializes in World War II, as mentioned, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the more recent military operations, including Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I want you to understand that the U.S. Army can take somebody and they can train them; we can give them the best training and best equipment in the world but that’s not how you make a good American — the way you make a good American is what we are doing right now. What we need for you to do is to be connected to something,” Dr. Lewis said. “To realize where you are and understand the significance of it. A state is a political institution, a nation is a cultural institution, but it is people who are cohesive, people who are connected. You have to recognize where you came from and that it is valuable and that it requires sometimes for some of us to protect it to ensure that it will continue,” he said.
The program at the high school included numbers by the FCHS band and chorus and Sacred Heart chorus.
“I continue to be proud of our FC High and FC Sacred Heart students as they showed their respect for our veterans during the morning program,” Mrs. Maddox writes in a “Sez I” that appears on Page 3 of today’s Journal.
“The joint choruses of FCHS and FC Sacred Heart High School, directed by Mr. Wesley Farewell, FCSH Director and accompanied by Mrs. Alisha Sutton, FCHS Director, did a wonderful job of singing the ‘Armed Forces Medley’. The FC High School Band, under the direction of Mr. Kent Stutheit, performed the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ during the posting of the colors and ‘Main Street America’ for the retirement of the colors,” Mrs. Maddox said.
The 1:30 p.m. parade down Stone Street included veterans’ organizations’ color guards, and the Falls City High School Band, but the breeze was too brisk for the younger students.
“Our students from North, South, Middle and Sacred Heart Schools were not able to participate due to the wind chills and we look forward to them being back next year,” Maddox said. “Thank you to the FCHS marching band for being in their uniforms and marching in the parade.”
A reception honoring veterans was held at ShopKo following the parade. The Stalder Gallery at the Library and Art Center was open for one hour following the parade.
The busy day concluded with the veterans’ dinner at the First United Methodist Church and the Falter Exhibit at the library.
“I give a special thank you to Christina Wertenberger, Lori Gottula and Rita Seid for their help in coordinating and publicizing this event,” Mrs. Maddox said.
“The Falls City Veterans Day Celebration recognizes with appreciation each and every veteran for his or her service to our country. Thank you to all our veterans!,” she concluded.