Locals gather to honor veterans

Army veteran Jim Kenney of Front Royal stands surrounded by waving flags during the Veterans Day ceremony Friday morning outside the Warren County Courthouse. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Town and county officials came together to pay their respects to both present and past veterans Friday at the Warren County Court House.

Despite the chill in the air, hundreds of individuals, of all ages, paid tribute on the historical holiday. Introduced in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson,  Veterans Day, always observed on Nov. 11, continues to pay homage to members who served and continue to serve in the United States Armed Forces.

Randolph-Macon Academy’s band performed many patriotic songs while guests waited for the ceremony to begin. Students from the E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School choir also performed a patriotic ensemble, including: “America the Beautiful.”

Mayor Hollis Tharpe gave a welcoming speech that detailed the importance of Veterans Day.

“Veterans Day, a day where we recognize those men and women who choose to wear the uniform of the United States Armed Forces and protect out way of life,” said Tharpe. “There are a large number of men and women in both Front Royal and Warren County who have served in the military during peace and war, and we thank those that are here today.”

Randolph-Macon Academy cadet Uyyang "Mike" Wang plays "Taps" during the closing of the Veterans Day ceremony outside the Warren County Courthouse Friday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily

“On the behalf of the citizens of the Town of Front Royal, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your service. Your service to this great country of ours has allowed us to continue enjoying those freedoms that this country was founded upon.”

Larry Funk, Commander of the American Legion Gilies B. Cook Post 53 in Front Royal led Friday’s event. Along with fellow attendees, Funk paid his respects to other veterans.

“God has blessed us with a grand nation, a cherished and unique land and people upon the face of this earth,” Funk said. “It is our honor and duty to remember each American patriot, a united and determined people who by virtue of bravery and compassion through our magnificent history have taken up arms and committed their lives and fortunes as a living sacrifice.”

Friday’s guest speaker was USAF Col. John C. Casserino, a physics instructor at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal. He spoke on the topic of bravery.

“For generations, men and women have sounded to the call to support and defend those in need,” Casserino said.

USAF Col. John C. Casserino, a physics instructor at Randolph-Macon Academy, speaks during the Veterans Day ceremony outside the Warren County Courthouse in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Those needs included health and safety, defense of human rights, and rescue from danger and death. Many of these responsibilities touch on individuals who aren’t necessarily in the armed services, Casserino said. “It would do right to honor them, too,” he added.

Casserino touched briefly on American history. Honoring veterans from the  Civil War to today’s Middle East conflicts,  remembering service members from every war, no matter how big or small, is valuable, he explained.

“No sacrifice is too small,” he added

“We will continue to remember those faithful individuals who have served our great nation, not because we can’t forget the past but because we do not want to forget the past.”

Casserino concluded his speech with a passage from his favorite literary author C.S. Lewis, “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

Katie Smith, 11, a student at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, sings with her classmates during the Veterans Day ceremony outside the Warren County Courthouse Friday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily

A wreath laying ceremony concluded the ceremony, followed by a moment of silence and the “Lost Post” bugle call. Guests were invited to join Funk and others for lunch and fellowship at American Legion Gilies B. Cook Post 53.

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