Toronto service somber, poignant

TORONTO – A large turnout on a cold and windy day at the city’s gazebo commons only added to the poignant atmosphere Monday during Veterans Day services hosted by the American Legion Post 86.

Services began with C. David Rhodes, master of ceremonies and past commander of Post 86, describing the plight of veterans in the present day as well as hailing the local safety forces.

“(Our safety forces) are our veterans since Sept. 11, 2001,” said Rhodes. “They are here when no one else wants to be.”

Rhodes described the difficult plight many veterans face today.

“The picture isn’t pretty for veterans,” he said. “The world is changing, and not for the better.”

Rhodes said veterans returning home suffer 21 percent unemployment, and “We have 12,000 veterans who are homeless. It’s wrong.”

He also said in 2012, 310 veterans were killed in combat, while 351 committed suicide.

“There’s something wrong,” said Rhodes. “Remember that number.”

The Rev. Kevin Rinkes, pastor of the Toronto First United Methodist Church, gave the invocation, after which Goldie Litva, Post 86 auxiliary chaplain, recited the Legion Prayer. She also presented Agie Rock, mother of Nathan Rock who was killed in action in Iraq in the mid-2000s, with flowers. Donna Manning, mother of Ronald Manning, who was killed during the waning days of the Vietnam War, also was honored, although she wasn’t present at Monday’s service.

The Toronto High School Marching Band performed the national anthem, after which John Parker, city safety director, welcomed those gathered.

“What’s so special about Veterans Day is that we show our respect to those still living,” said Parker.

“But nothing can replace the hole left behind by a fallen service members.”

Parker ended by quoting Abraham Lincoln, who said “A nation that doesn’t honor its heroes will not long endure.”

Marine Lt. Col. James Burchfield said 75 percent of the world’s nations have active U.S. servicemen and women on their shores.

“This is a day when we pay respects to every serviceman who has served our country,” said Burchfield, adding service doesn’t always include combat missions, and there currently were U.S. serviceman and women in the Philippines assisting typhoon victims.

He said serviceman currently were stationed off the coast of Syria and other dangerous parts of the world. Burchfield read the poem “Always the Soldier,” which gave responsibility for the many freedoms Americans enjoy to veterans. He also hailed city residents for coming to the service on a cold and blustery day. He added currently 2.2 million citizens serve in the armed forces, which is a small fraction of those who served in World War II.

“That’s remarkable,” he continued. “That’s something to be proud of, that we can defend our country with only 1 percent in (the armed forces).

Burchfield said technology, training, leadership has “given (citizens) the best fighting force the world has ever seen.”

Burchfield ended by telling three stories of excellence among servicemen and women. The placing of wreaths at the city’s war memorial followed, after which patriotic songs were sung by Richie Coburn and Victor Larue. Rinkes then gave the benediction, with Litva leading a closing prayer. A salute to the dead was performed by the American Legion Post 86 honor guard, followed by taps.