All gave some. Some gave all. And some came to Belleville Sunday to say thank you.
About 500 veterans, family members, friends and fellow patriots filed in around the Veteran's Memorial Fountain on Public Square as part of the 14th annual Veteran's Day Ceremony.
The program featured a presentation of the colors by the Scott Air Force Base Honor guard, a placing of a veteran's wreath and versions of "The Star Spangled Banner," "Taps," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "God Bless the USA," as well as tributes and remarks by speakers. There were also several readings by area students and six patriotic posters created by young artists on display.
"To those who paid the ultimate price or who are still missing or unaccounted for, we honor you," said Lt. Gen. Darren W. McDew, commander of the 18th Air Force at Scott Air Force Base. "We honor you by remembering your valor, your service and your sacrifice. Your families have earned our deepest respect. This day ... this very day ... we reaffirm our commitment to you."
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bill Ford, who served from 1981 to 2004, talked about the sense of purpose he felt as he served and how it shaped his thoughts about his country and himself as a young man.
"You just know you're doing what you're supposed to be doing and you think about home, but you think about it as something to do later on because that mission is always first. If the mission is not first, then it's not certainty that home is going to be there," he said.
U.S. Army Vietnam veteran Jim Hrasky of Belleville held his 3-year-old grandson, Trey Hrasky, during the ceremony and as Trey played with his collection of American flags. Hrasky has been bringing his five grandsons to the Veteran's Day ceremony to help them learn about their country.
"I just tell them how great it is to have this country and to respect the flag. They love to wave the flag," said Hrasky, who served in the Army in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968.
When asked to say a little more about what it meant to have his family with him Sunday, Hrasky's eyes filled with tears as he was overcome with emotion and said, "This is a great country. ... I'm sorry I just can't say any more."