BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Local and area veterans were honored Friday as students were sent home for the holidays.
In what’s becoming a tradition from the Fort Madison High School student government, local veterans from all U.S. armed forces were welcomed and honored with speeches from local dignitaries and music from the FMHS music department.
FMHS Principal Greg Smith welcomed everyone to the assembly and said the project was created by the Student Government who wanted to do the assembly right before the holidays to honor the gift of freedom veterans have preserved for everyone.
“I’m deeply honored to stand with you today commemorating the sacrifices of the military men and women who have risked their lives, and some in cases laid down their lives, in service to this nation. The veterans who are with us today are indisputable heroes. They’ve risked everything in service to their country,” Smith said.
Jeff Metcalf, a 42-year civilian resident of Fort Madison spoke to those in attendance about the importance of recognizing the service and sacrifices made by veterans.
“I was the normal curious kid in northeast Missouri and I used to ask my mom why my dad had to go on maneuvers right in the dead of summer – right when we’re horse showing and rodeo-ing. She would tell me it was his duty and his honor. As a kid I didn’t understand all that,” Metcalf said.
He said he would ask family members about veterans in the family who had medical conditions.
“They all had a deeper understanding and appreciation of why military members appreciated their service different than civilians do. This is a day for us to remember those sacrifices and those that didn’t make it home,” he said.
SFC Rob Radosevich also spoke to those in attendance and encouraged students, and parents alike, to not look at the military as just a second option. Radosevich is now a recruiter after decades of active duty.
“I’ve had the privilege over the course of two years of recruiting to bring some great young people into the Iowa National Guard out of Fort Madison High Schoo,” he said. “Thank you for what you are about to do. It’s youth like you that are willing to take that next step, to be that next generation that will defend this nation. You can sit on the sidelines and let someone else, or you can be part of that proud group – that less than 1% that will raise their hand and commit to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”
He said those who are thinking about military service should make it a part of their plan and realize it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation, and parents should see military service for their children the same way.
“To the parents of the students, some of you are out here today. I ask that you allow your child to grow, to evolve, to mature, and to make those decisions about military service. Natural apprehension…I understand that without a doubt, but if they so choose, please allow them to do that. There will be a tear in your eye, but there’ll be a lot of love, and an immeasurable amount of pride, in your heart.”
Radosevich then saluted the veterans in the gymnasium.
“Words…songs…all of which are nice and needed. But they all fall short of a simple thank you for your service, your commitment, your sacrifices…no matter where you were at. Peace time or war time,” Radosevich said. “We just cannot thank them enough.”
The FMHS student government then donated close to $500 from a fundraiser to the local VFW in honor of their service.