'Remembering is the greatest respect'

Nov. 13—Marvin Morris, the chaplain of American Legion Post 111 and a Korean War veteran, reminded guests during a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11 that "remembering is the greatest respect" we can give to those who served, and to forget would the poorest way, a great dishonor to those men and women.

Newton did not forget. Veterans of all wars were honored for their service and sacrifice during the ceremony at the post, which ended with the Honor Guard firing three volleys of ammunition and a bugle call of "Taps." Morris led the invocation and benediction, blessing the country and its service members.

"Let us remember this day. Let us how you had blessed this great nation of ours and continue to bless us how you blessed up through combat and victory," Morris said. "Bless those who led us. Bless those who serve. And we say again: Let us remember our veterans on this day. Remembering is the greatest."

Marvin Morris, the chaplain of American Legion Post 111 and a Korean War veteran, salutes during a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11 in Newton.

The guest speaker of this year's ceremony was Vietnam veteran Levi Pence, who served in the United States Army. Today we live in a country where freedom abounds, he said. The freedom to speak, to worship, to assemble, to live wherever we want. Veterans fought for those freedoms.

"These freedoms that we so often take for granted come at a price," Pence said in a speech to guests. "Today we have the privilege — a special honor — to recognize the men and women who served the United States in some capacity in the United States Armed Forces."

United States military service members have helped maintain the freedoms on their country for hundreds of years. Since the Revolutionary War, veterans have shed blood, sweat and tears to protect the liberties and inalienable rights that American citizens hold dear.

Veterans have successfully defended the freedoms of the United States. Their efforts allow people the ability to hold elected representatives accountable or oust them from power, to change the makeup of government, to freely exchange ideas, to criticize our government and to print the truth.

"My mother-in-law who is over 100 years old went to the Jasper County Courthouse and cast her ballot," Pence said, noting she was even attending the ceremony. "She lived during WWII and was separated from her husband for over three years while he served overseas to protect the things he loved."

Levi Pence, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the United States Army, speaks during a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11 at the American Legion Post 111 in Newton.

Pence said the United States of America has declared war 11 times and has fought in conflicts around the world. More than 41 million Americans have served over the course of the nation's history. More than 16 million did so in WWII alone. Roughly 18 million veterans are living the United States today.

"They served during times of war and times of peace," he said. "The largest single group of veterans, approximately 6.4 million, are from the Vietnam era."

However, the fastest declining group of veterans is from WWII. Between 2000 and 2018, Pence said, the number of living WWII veterans in the United States declined from 5.7 million to fewer than 500,000. Which means about 289,000 WWII veterans died each year, emphasizing the need to recognize veterans.

"That's nearly 800 each day for those 18 years," he said. "By 2030, it's projected there will be fewer than 8,000 WWII veterans. Indeed the veteran population has been declining for decades. Between 2000 and 2018 alone the veteran population about one-third, from 26.4 million to 18 million."

Combined with the declining WWII veterans in that timeframe, the United States lost about 1,279 veterans each day. The population of veterans is projected to decline even further over the next decade, or about 686 veterans each day. By 2040 it is estimated about 12.9 million veterans will be living in the United States.

"We as a nation of free people owe so much to our veterans that have sacrificed their time, talents, even their lives to keep the United States of America the land of the free," Pence said. "Today is our opportunity to take a moment to reflect on the gift of freedom that has been granted and maintained."

Pence added that people should express their gratitude to veterans each and every day for the freedoms we are blessed to experience.

"God bless you, veterans," he said. "Each and every one. And God bless the United States of America."