Today is Veterans Day: Do you know the proper way to thank a veteran?
PEORIA — COVID-19 hasn’t stopped the Illinois Valley Fuller Center for Housing from honoring local veterans in November.
“I was going to cut it way back this year because of COVID,” said organization founder Debbie Gaught, shortly after two veterans were honored with a brief ceremony at American Legion Post 2 in Peoria on Monday afternoon. “But we ended up doing just as many.”
The Fuller Center’s main mission is to help low-income families and veterans with critical repairs on their homes. Because they work with veterans, honoring them around Veterans Day is a logical off-shoot of their job.
Since Veterans Day is celebrated Nov. 11, the anniversary of the armistice which ended World War I, Fuller Center honors 11 veterans in November each year. Veterans of all ages were nominated for the honor this year. Gaught arranges for a group of people to go to where the veteran lives or works to perform a short ceremony. On Monday, two veterans who work at American Legion Post 2 were honored by members of Limestone High School Air Force JROTC.
Bruce Stewart, 86, and Bill Davies, 77, who is also the commander of American Legion Post 2, received a bag of goodies which included a red, white and blue stocking cap created by the First English Lutheran Church knitting club, and an afghan made by three women from Proctor Place. The men were also given a certificate and a big “thank you.“
The ceremony turned the table on Stewart, whose job as the official eulogist for Post 2 is to thank soldiers for their service. He regularly performs ceremonies in hospice situations and occasionally during birthday celebrations. Because of that, he has thought a lot about the proper way to thank a veteran.
“I cringe when somebody comes up to me and says ‘thank you for your service,’” said Stewart after the ceremony. “You see, if you cash a check at a bank, you thank the teller for his service. If the service in a restaurant is good, you thank the waitress or waiter for his service. What we should thank these people for is their help in providing our freedom. That’s the proper way to thank them, and that’s what I do at the hospice home in these eulogies.”
While presiding over ceremonies at the bedside of dying veterans, Stewart reads a poem written in 1970 by Army veteran Charles M. Province — “It is the Soldier.” On Monday, Stewart recited the same poem for the JROTC members who had come to honor him. It reads, in part:
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
Leslie Renken can be reached at 270-8503 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.