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Sixty years after the Korean War began in 1950, between 2,000 and 3,000 people gathered at Adams Central School in Monroe on Tuesday for AC's annual tribute to Veterans' Day, an event that spotlighted local veterans of the Korean conflict.
"Together we stand" was the theme of the program set up and operated the high school's History Club.
The guest speaker, 40-year U.S. Army veteran Frederick "Fritz" Bultemeyer of rural Decatur, a retired command sergeant-major, referred to that unifying theme when he noted that, during World War II, as some 16 million U.S. men and women entered the services, the ratio of military personnel to the overall population was one to 30, while today, with an-volunteer military, the ratio is one to 450.
Bultemeyer, 64, who served during the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars and won numerous decorations, said he never felt as honored as he did by being the guest speaker yesterday.
"Veterans are the lifeblood of liberty of this nation. You are my heroes!" he said, adding that they are heroic "not only for the time they were serving or are serving, but also for the understanding during the difficult times that many of them have gone through, or are going through, because of their wartime experiences."
He called war "terrible and dangerous" and stated, "Combat is not glorious; in fact, it is horrific," but "what is glorious is to be able to serve our Heavenly Father [and] our country and to help fellow comrades-in-arms return home to their loved ones."
Bultemeyer said he was safe during his long military service because "God had taken me under His protective care. Whatever happened or didn't happen to me was by His divine guidance."
He went on to say that many veterans declare, "I just did my duty," then pointed out that "that is the critical point. We did OUR DUTY! If we, as veterans, would not have fulfilled our duties, we would have failed in our mission to support our fellow comrades and our country as we were trained to do."
The sergeant-major commented, "I have always felt that all Americans should serve this country in one form or another, then maybe more of us would truly appreciate the freedoms, privileges, and rights that we take for granted and without thought."
He also asked for and received a moment of silence for staff sergeant Phillip Jenkins, a former Decatur resident killed in Iraq in September. Bultemeyer revealed that Jenkins "told me shortly before he left on his second deployment that he was going to re-enlist," then said to the silent audience, "Heavenly Father, we ask that you keep Sgt. Jenkins' families in your comforting arms."
Bultemeyer mentioned attending the recent graduation of another Decatur soldier from the U.S. Army training camp in Fort Benning, Georgia: private Riley Hormann.
As he put it, "when I talk to young soldiers today, I tell them to be forever proud of their service. I have noticed that, since the start of the Global War on Terrorism, I am seeing more and more veterans showing the pride of their service through caps, shirts, license plates, and stickers."
Bultemeyer thanked the AC organizers of the Veterans' Day celebration: high school history teachers Carolyn McCammon and Ryan Thompson, the History Club, and the AC chapter of the Sunshine Society. He said, "Every year when I think it can't be better than the previous year, I come away even more impressed."
Veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan War were recognized, as were loved ones of those who served in World War I.
The high school band played the songs of each of the U.S. military services, with those who served asked to stand when their song was performed.
Fifty veterans were presented printed copies of interviews done of them by ACHS students.
A slide show displayed numerous photos of veterans from Adams County, along with a list of their names and some audio recollections of their time in war, such as landing at Normandy on D-Day in 1944 while the water was red with blood, or seeing skeletal survivors of Nazi death camps, or surviving an explosion just a few feet away.