They may not always know it, but patriotism is a sense of pride that runs deep in the heart of every American.
That's what guest speaker, Chaplain Capt. Steve Peters, AGR of the 185th Refueling Wing of the Air National Guard, of Sioux City, said Sunday morning.
Peters, who is also chaplain for the 133rd Test Squadron of the Air National Guard, of Fort Dodge, addressed more than 100 people gathered to honor local veterans in the St. Edmond High School auditorium.
-Messenger photos by Emilie Nelson-Jenson
Master Sgt. Pete Bowden waits to place a military dress uniform cap on the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action table on stage during the Veterans Day program at St. Edmond High School Sunday morning.
"Patriotism runs deep in all Americans, whether we know it or not," said Peters. "By the very fact that you are here today, you understand that and you are proud to be an American."
Peters paid tribute to veterans past and present, as well as those living or who have died, in his speech, noting that it is still important to remember deceased veterans.
"Veterans who have died, their service obligations have expired but their love of country never dies," he said.
Even in civilian life, Peters said veterans continue to be dedicated, service-minded individuals.
"You find veterans on police departments, fire departments and as first responders," he said. "As veterans, they can't help but respond. They take their roles as a citizen seriously."
The program included the solemn ritual of a table paying tribute to prisoners of war and the missing in action.
Set for five, it includes symbols for the missing and prisoners of war. The round table itself represents the everlasting concern for the missing. A white tablecloth represents the purity of their intentions. The single candle represents the frailty of prisoners of war against oppression, and a red rose represents the life of each missing person and their families. A red, white and blue ribbon symbolizes the determination to account for the missing; a yellow ribbon represents the families who wait for their return. A slice of lemon on each place represents their bitter fate. A sprinkle of salt is symbolic of the tears of the missing and their families. The Bible represents strength through faith and one nation under God, and empty chairs represent the missing. There are inverted wine glasses, somber reminders of the missing soldiers who are not able to toast with the rest. A faded photograph represents that they are missed and remembered.
"Their chairs are empty, but we hope for their safe return," said Major Justin Faiferlick, master of ceremonies who is with the 133rd Test Squadron. "They love life and freedom as much as we do. We remember them in spirit. All Americans should never forget these brave men and women."
The program also included a message on the meaning of Armistice Day read by St. Edmond High School Principal John Howard, a moment of silence for World War I veterans, music by the St. Edmond band and choir, and recognition of the members of the St. Edmond Cyber Patriot Team.
St. Edmond students John Michael Li and Seth Reel were presented a special Air Force coin in recognition of sharing their talents by playing "Taps" for the ceremony.
Faiferlick thanked all of the veterans again for their service as the program concluded.
"Thank you to those who serve or have served in the United States military," he said. "These men and women have endured the worst of times in war so we can live and work in peace. There are more than 22 million American veterans. Many were volunteers, and many were called upon to serve. Some served days and others have given a lifetime's work. For all you have given to America and to the service you have yet to give, you have our thanks."