By Josette Keelor
FRONT ROYAL -- At a Veterans Day ceremony in downtown Front Royal on Monday, Maj. Gen. Maurice H. "Maury" Forsyth, president of Randolph-Macon Academy, quoted a prayer Eleanor Roosevelt wrote:
"Lest I continue my complacent way, help me to remember that somewhere, somehow out there a person died for me today."
With a tone of thankfulness, community members gathered Monday to remember those who devoted their lives to serving their country.
The morning ceremony began after the playing of patriotic music by the Warren County High School marching band, the Skyline High School marching band and the R-MA marching band.
Chaplain Richard Kirkland gave the opening prayer and Alexandra Taylor led the choir in song at Front Royal's E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School.
Then Front Royal Mayor Timothy Darr thanked those in attendance, especially the Giles B. Cook American Legion Post 53 for hosting the event on the lawn of the town courthouse.
"So often our veterans are never told how much they mean to us as individuals and to our freedom," Darr said. "Not only as we honor them today for Veterans Day, but every day or when the opportunity arises, we should take the time."
"You're all heroes," he added.
Post 53 Commander Larry Funk honored the more than 750 members of the American Legion who devoted their time to hosting Monday's event.
He also challenged politicians to consider their reasons for praising veterans, telling them, "I ask you to return to the spirit of the days of John F. Kennedy and to remember his admirable words: 'The highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.'
"If our nation's leaders are going to speak of the tremendous courage and the great honor of America's proud veterans and if they are going to cite our nation's incalculable debt to those heroes who defended freedom, then live by those words," he said.
As the ceremony neared its end, Funk honored women present whose sons died in battle, and Kirkland presented yellow roses to those Funk called "gold star mothers."
Before the program ended with a moment of silence and a prayer by Kirkland, Forsyth spoke about the call to service.
"Today there are just over 20 million living Americans who distinguish themselves by service in uniform," he said. "Their devotion and sacrifice have been the bedrock to our sovereignty as a nation, our values as a people and our security as a democracy."
He considered what makes a person volunteer to defend his or her country, to take on the task of protecting strangers and put oneself in harm's way to live the loneliness of life in the military.
"What is it that makes them march toward the sound of guns?" he asked. In a word, he said, "Love."
"For only love of country and freedom will compel us to write that blank check to our country for up to and including our life."
For him, Veterans Day is "A yearly reminder to ask myself, 'Am I worthy?'"
Or as Mrs. Roosevelt put it, "Am I worth dying for?"
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org