The decade since 9/11 remembered

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Inspiration

Published on September 06, 2011 with No Comments

American Legion Post 94 in Valparaiso loves its work.

The Post is ready to make sure the flag is honored.

In doing so, the men and women of the Post honor their fellow-soldiers.

As the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11 arrives, even though the evil architect of the attack is finally dead, most veterans and their families are celebrating the service of the first responders and the ensuing call to arms in the recent wars.

Certainly there will be heartfelt demonstrations everywhere. In our hometown areas, both Chesterton and Portage VFWs are still planning their ceremonies.

In Hobart, The Hobart Jaycees plan to host a memorial twilight parade, beginning at dusk on 9/11, lit by candlelight along the route and by first-responder lights in the procession.

As part of the event, the parade route will be lined with handprints that represent each life lost on 9/11 as well as those who lost their lives in military operations that followed.

The parade, with police, fire and military men and women and their families, will conclude with inspirational speeches and a musical tribute.

The Hobart Jaycees are looking for businesses interested in becoming sponsors and individuals to serve on the planning committee.

For more information, contact parade co-chairman Christina Meadows, 219-945-0909 or e-mail hobartjaycees@yahoo.com.

For the Valparaiso, tribute, new VFW Commander Donald Davis, a 20-year member and first-time Commander, reinforced the focus of their planned 11 a.m. ceremony at the post home.

“We’re going to commemorate the 10th anniversary,” Davis said. “We try to always honor the servicemen and women. We are not worried about who caused it. We want to honor the Americans who responded.”

At Valparaiso, there will be many Legion dignitaries from the state of Indiana including State Commander Mike Miller and State Auxiliary President Billie Bubala. A special wreath will be presented at the memorial stone of John Amos, the first soldier from Porter County to give his life in the Army when deployed to Iraq in October 2001.

At VFW Post 94, it is apparent the participating members of the Color Guard are always available for such a commemoration. a work from the heart. For instance, they will provide the 21-gun salute to complete the 9/11 memorial

Bob Mundell is the Color Guard Commander.

The post itself has 640 members, with 100 or so from World War II, 130 from the Korean Conflict and the rest from Vietnam on.

“We are losing those members, including from Vietnam,” Mundell said.

Mundell has 19 members in his Color Guard. At funerals, it is called an Honor Guard and for the firing of salutes, it is a Firing Squad.

The guards share an easy camaraderie. They laugh with each other, still arguing if Navy is better than Army, if both are better than Air Force and where the Marines rank.

If you just listen, you may believe this was their first meeting since coming home from a distant war front or a row of freshly-minted soldiers awaiting the next orders. Inside, they are still the young men who went away and were lucky enough to come back.

“And you never see anyone pull rank,” Mundell said. “If you were a colonel or a private, you get the same respect. No one gets criticized.”

And it’s been that way for along time in Valparaiso

“Right after World War 1, in 1919, the Legion started and that’s when Post 94 started,” Mundell said.

“The community means so much to us.

“You see someone come out of the service, even in World War II, these are 17-18-19-year-old kids. They have seen some things that maybe they didn’t want to see.

“So some of them come back pretty messed up. And other soldiers understand that. We were doing counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder even before it was identified

“My dad was a first lieutenant in World War II. They truly were the ‘Greatest Generation.’ They were all great people. But think about it, the youngest people who survived World War II are probably about 89 right now.

“Between my wife and I, we had about 18 (relatives) who survived and came back home. They think about the ones who didn’t come back.

“What we do every year is remember them all.”

When they work the gravesites, they start with a computer printout of all known soldiers’ graves.

They will add those discovered through family archives. “Not every serviceman has a mention of his service on his headstone, so we are always finding more,” Mundell said.

He estimates about 75 percent of soldier gravesites have been identified.

“The whole point of what we do is honoring those in service,” Mundell said.

“This is absolutely my favorite thing to do.”

His Color Guards are more than eager when the call comes in for a funeral service. “They will say, ‘Why didn’t you call me?’ They all want to be called every time,” Mundell said.

The big weekends, of course, are the 4th of July ceremonies and Memorial Day.

“If someone calls for us, we’ll be there,” Mundell said.

“We have so much fun; being together means a good time.”

On Memorial Day they planted 2,400 flags on veterans’ graves. They will march in parades, attend the funerals and continue to honor those who have passed by simply living the good life.

When flags are in need of replacement, they will make sure weathered flags are gathered. The Legion’s protocol is to burn such flags (the VFW buries theirs).

Moeller Funeral Home offers the incineration service to the post.

It is such rhythms of life that keeps the Color Guard active.

“There is not an amount of money in the world that would make us stop doing this,” Mundell said.

“If there is one Legion message we want to make it’s that the Legion is not just a lot of guys gathering to drink beer. That is not what we are about.

“We are here to honor servicemen, to make sure that tradition is never lost.”

For more information on Post 94, 4 East Monroe St., call 219-462-4452.

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About Mike Siroky

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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