The solemn veterans remembrance ceremony started with a posting of the U.S. flag and a POW/MIA flag in the student lounge at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.
The Reading of the Fallen Project began just after 10 a.m. Wednesday in Belleville and at 600 sites across the nation as part of the project organized by the organization The Fight Continues. The organization was founded by Lebanon Marine James Sperry and Eric Calley, both veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sperry, a lance corporal in the U.S. Marines, was seriously wounded in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade glanced off his helmet, exploding on a wall right behind him in Fallujah, Iraq. He received two Purple Heart awards.
Members of the U.S. Transportation Command Joint Service Color Guard posted the colors before the ceremony began and 19 volunteers read 750 names of World War II veterans for nearly two hours in Belleville. A bell was rung after each name was recited. At the Granite City campus, 500 names from the Vietnam War were read Wednesday. And at noon Thursday, 500 more names of veterans who were killed in Libya in September, the 1998 Nairobi bombing, the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, Operation Desert Storm and Beirut are scheduled to be read at the Red Bud campus.
Across the nation, the goal of the project was to read aloud the names of all fallen veterans from all conflicts from the beginning of the United States. Participants at each of the 600 sites were asked to read about 1,750 names beginning Wednesday with an estimated eight names read each minute.
"Veterans Day, which officially falls on Sunday and is recognized Monday, is often referred to as the forgotten holiday," said Mark Eichenlaub, vice president of community services at the college. "We thank our veterans for their service, but how many know their names and the sacrifices their families made?"
College President Georgia Costello began the project by reading 40 names, each name followed with the toll of a bell.
The college will continue its Veterans Day recognition week with its annual Veterans Job Fair from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday in the varsity gym at the Belleville campus. The fair will feature more than 80 companies. Also at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, a presentation honoring veterans, including homeless veterans from the Eagle's Nest in East St. Louis will be held at the Sam Wolf Granite City Campus.
On Monday, an Armed Forces Night will be held at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and will feature two basketball games between SWIC and Mineral Area College. Veterans and military members receive free admission to the games and anyone bringing three nonperishable food items will be admitted to the games free. The canned food items will be donated for homeless veterans and for families of patients receiving care at military and VA medical centers.
For more information about the Fight Continues organization, visit www.the-fight-continues.com. The organization is dedicated to informing the public of the sacrifices made by military members.
Contact reporter Jennifer A. Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2667.