Metro-East News

‘Listen to their stories’: General urges Belleville residents to meet vets

Flags and memories at Belleville Veterans Day ceremony

Belleville celebrated Veterans Day on Wednesday with guest speaker Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base. The event was held at the Veterans Memorial on Public Square and drew a large crowd and many
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Belleville celebrated Veterans Day on Wednesday with guest speaker Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base. The event was held at the Veterans Memorial on Public Square and drew a large crowd and many

When you meet a veteran, listen to his or her story and thank them for their service.

That was a message sent by Air Force Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, who was the keynote speaker during Belleville’s 17th annual Veterans Day ceremony on Wednesday on the Public Square.

“Listen to their stories. Try to understand their sacrifice and never take for granted the freedom they ensure,” Everhart said.

“That freedom is a gift and it can only be paid with sacrifice, heartache and bloodshed,” Everhart said. “Today, we honor the veterans and the gift of freedom.”

The general said there are about 800,000 surviving World War II veterans in the United States.

“Talking to a World War II vet is a rare treat,” Everhart said. He urged people to stop what they are doing and have a conversation with the veterans they encounter.

One of those World War II veterans is 91-year-old Fred Bruss, who retired as Belleville’s fire chief in 1979. Bruss said he served in the 12th Air Force as a gunner on attack bombers in Africa, Italy and France. He left the Air Force as a staff sergeant.

Bruss said he enjoys attending the annual Belleville Veterans Day ceremony. “Every year it gets better,” he said.

Everhart also told the crowd to “live your freedom.”

That freedom is a gift and it can only be paid with sacrifice, heartache and bloodshed. Today, we honor the veterans and the gift of freedom.

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II

“Drive across state borders knowing that you’re not going to be stopped a checkpoint,” Everhart said. “Practice your faith wherever you want to, or choose not to.

“Never forget that there are places in the world where such liberty is not a reality.”

Air Mobility Command’s duties include providing air transport support for the U.S. military, aerial refueling, humanitarian support and aeromedical evacuation. Everhart was appointed the leader of Air Mobility Command in August.

Everhart’s previous assignments include a deployment to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010 as the deputy commander of political-military affairs for the Combined Security Transition Command. He has experience flying 10 aircraft, including the C-130E/H and C-17A.

Mayor Mark Eckert asked the audience to thank a veteran. He choked up as he spoke of the impending deployment of his son, U.S. Army Maj. Matthew Eckert, who is headed to Africa to serve as a trauma surgeon.

A light rain fell occasionally but not enough to stop the ceremony. Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Bob Ellison sang stirring renditions of the national anthem and “America the Beautiful.” Marty Petrie performed on the bagpipes.

Poster and essay contest winners

The 2015 Veterans Day poster and essay contest winners were honored. They are:

Poster contest

Kindergarten to second-grade:

First: Kairi Tolliver, a second-grader at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School

Second: Cady Keplar, a second-grader at Franklin Elementary School

Third- to fifth-grade:

First: Ashleigh Esker, a fifth-grader at Westhaven Elementary School

Second: Alex McGraw, a fifth-grader at Westhaven Elementary School

Sixth- to eighth-grade:

First: Alleah Shepherd, an eighth-grader at Central Junior High

Second: Faith Odom, an eighth-grader at West Junior High

Essay contest

Kindergarten to second-grade:

First: Riley Eugea, a second-grader at Henry Raab Elementary School

Second: Kimberley Palmieri, a second-grader at Franklin Elementary School

Third- to fifth-grade:

First: Hannah Simpson, a fifth-grader at Douglas Elementary School

Second: Cassidy Holliday, a fourth-grader at Westhaven Elementary School

Sixth- to eighth-grade:

First: Mackenzie VanHorn, an eighth-grader at West Junior High

Second: Khaleo Price, a sixth-grader at Westhaven Elementary School

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