The season’s first snow storm delayed the start of the 22nd annual Veterans Day Assembly Monday in the Perry Performing Arts Center, which began at 10 a.m. with the posting of the colors by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2060 and the American Legion Post 85.
The panel discussion originally slated for 9 a.m., was held at 12:30 p.m., following the luncheon.
Ceremonies began with World War II veteran and Legion of Honor recipient Mahlon Conaway of Perry leading the assembled crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung by the Perry High School Select Choir under the directorship of Jenn Nelson.
Bosnia war veteran Mike Powell performed the duties of master of ceremonies for his 17th year, welcoming the audience and delivering brief opening remarks about the origin of America’s Veterans Day traditions.
American Legion Boys State participant and PHS senior Calvin Sass then read a selection from the essay, “What is a Veteran?” followed by the Perry High School and Perry Middle School Select Choir, under the directorship of PHS Vocal Music Director Jenn Nelson, singing “A Tribute to the Armed Services.” Veterans rose from their seats when their branches’ anthems were sung.
Perry native and U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Jim Haas was memorialized in a heartfelt presentation by Bill Clark of Hometown Heritage. Haas’ son, Marty Haas of Urbandale, was also on hand to honor his father.
Quilts of Valor were bestowed on World War II veterans Mahlon Conaway and Tom South as a way for the Perry Piecemakers Quilt Guild “to honor two veterans who have been touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”
Perry Mayor John Andorf read the dedications as Perry Piecemakers Linda Andorf, Lois Hoger, Pat Mundy and Joanne Warnock enfolded the soldiers in grateful warmth. Since Catharine Roberts started the Quilts of Valor movement in 2003, when her son was deployed to Iraq, more than 200,000 Quilts of Valor have been awarded.
The photograhic roll call, “Perry’s Band of Brothers and Sisters,” featuring Perry soldiers from the era of the U.S. Civil War to our modern military engagements, brought a warm response from the crowd.
The guest speaker at the 22nd annual assembly was Vietnam veteran and longtime Perry attorney John Powell, the father of master of ceremonies Mike Powell. Powell served in the U.S. Marine Corps in a forward artillery unit. He said he was injured in combat Oct. 27, 1967, and spent seven months recovering.
Powell said there are more heroes in the world than war heroes, and he cited examples in the civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were lynched in June 1964 near Philadelphia, Miss.
He also praised such heroes as the First Responders who selflessly entered the World Trade Center buildings Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the single mother who works three jobs to provide for her children and the teachers, coaches and friends who are near at hand and are heroes of everyday life.
Following Powell, the select choir sang “In Flanders Field,” based on the World War I poem of the same name. The poem commemorates the Nov. 18, 1918, Armistice that ended the Great War, which killed about 20 million people. The poem, written by the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, reads in part:
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Three PHS students — senior Rylan Gilmore and juniors Dalton Scott and Ainsley Marburger — read three war poems, followed by the song “Let Them In, Peter,” sung by Christine Krohn, Emily Grimm and Assel Samuratova.
PHS students Isabella Nath and Jocelyn Hopkins played “Taps” prior to the retiring of the colors at the end of the program.
The day began with a free breakfast starting at 6 a.m. for all veterans, active service and National Guard and Reserve personnel at the Perry Hy-Vee. The Veterans Day luncheon followed the assembly in the PHS gymnasium, with a panel discussion, “We Were Soldiers,” held at 12:30 p.m. in the performing arts center.