A crowd of several hundred gathered Wednesday morning in the Perry Performing Arts Center for the 18th Annual Veterans Day Celebration.
First held in 1998 under the auspices of the Bluejay Congress and the International Affairs class, the ceremonies have become a signature event at Perry High School and have drawn the attention of statewide media.
Perry Activities Director Tom Lipovac has been involved with the program from its inception and has seen it grow to include the involvement of several PHS student groups and classes, the local chapters of both the American Legion Post 85 and Veterans of Foreign Wars 2060 and members of the public.
Iowa National Guard Major Peter Meis, a VFW member, veteran of Afghanistan and PHS instructor, helped open the event with the posting of the colors, after which World War II veteran Jim Haas led the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Perry Select Choir, under the direction of Jenn Nelson, performed several numbers, including “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a “Tribute to the Armed Services” and a vocal rendition of “In Flanders Fields.”
Mike Powell, who served in Bosnia, was the Master of Ceremonies. He introduced World War II veteran Mahlon Conaway, who spoke of the origins of Veterans Day. Conaway received France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor, earlier this year.
American Legion Post Commander Mike Kelley honored John Summerson and the late Larry Harvey for having served 60 years at Legionnaires. Harvey, who passed away in June, was represented by members of his family.
PHS teacher Eddie Diaz, a Perry High graduate, spoke of his service as a U.S. Marine in Iraq and read a selection from former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw’s best seller, “The Greatest Generation.”
The crowd was then treated to an toe-tapping treat as Nelson and fellow faculty Shaylena Bell and Jenny Adair were accompanied by Lisa Christensen, Steve Cook, Brandon Weeks and Alonzo Lumbreras in a performance of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
Guest speaker Don Richardson (U.S. Army, Sgt. Major, ret.) spoke of his 30-year career, which included service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Richardson said Veterans Day should be a “time of celebration. We remember those who sacrificed for us today, but especially on Memorial Day. However, today, Veterans Day, should be a happy day and a day of pride.”
Perry Mayor Jay Pattee read the St. Crispin’s day passage from William Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” a passage more widely recognized as the “Band of Brothers” speech. He then introduced the popular video montage, “Perry’s Band of Brothers and Sisters,” which showed photographs of Perry natives who served, and are serving, the nation, from the Civil War forward.
Local artist Betsy Peterson spoke of her creation inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” which was displayed in the PPAC lobby. A video presentation played as Peterson discussed the inspiration for and creation of the piece and of the many volunteers who helped make it a reality. She then read the famed poem, with the PHS Select Choir singing the piece moments later.
Powell offered a few closing remarks, with PHS senior Lumbreras playing “Taps,” after which the colors were retired, ending the ceremony.
The day began with Hy-Vee serving a complimentary breakfast for veterans and active duty personnel from 6-10 a.m., with light refreshments, courtesy of the Dallas County Hospital, offered from 8-8:45 a.m. in the Brady Library.
The 27th annual Veterans Day panel and discussion followed, from 9-9:45 a.m. in the PPAC, with World War II veterans Conaway and Tom South and Korean War veterans Bob Peterson and Dick Shoesmith acting as panelists. Gary Overla and Phil Stone were the moderators.
A luncheon in the PHS gymnasium followed the ceremonies, with a complimentary soup supper to be served at the American Legion from 4-6 p.m.