JASPER — With the temperature hovering just above 50º Saturday morning, about 100 armed forces veterans, including their family members and friends, gathered at Bradley Park at the 11th hour on the 11h day of the 11th month to honor all veterans and formally thank them for their service to the country.
The Veterans Day program was put together by Newton County Veteran Service Officer Gerald Lamb and his supporters including volunteers from the Newton County Christian Food Room who prepared a picnic meal following it.
Three veterans were individually recognized. Those being the oldest veterans residing in Newton County: Dennis Brasel, 89; Arl Jones, 89 and Joe Nance, 96.
Keynote speaker was Robert "Pete" Petersen, of Russellville, District 4 Veteran Service Officer of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs. District 4 is comprised of 14 counties including Newton County. Also speaking and presenting legislative citations to the three veterans was state Rep. Steven Walker, of the 27th district.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance and an opening prayer by Byron Mann, pastor of the Jasper Methodist Church, Petersen began his address.
Recalling the first Armistice Day in 1919 following World War I, Petersen read the speech delivered to the country from then-President Woodrow Wilson. It ended with, “... To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
Reflecting on those words, Petersen reviewed the history of the Veterans Affairs Office that was first formed in 1923 and overcame many changes. In 2015 a strategic plan was implemented to increase the overall effectiveness of the Veterans Service Office (VSO) at the state and county level. VSOs assist veterans, surviving spouses, family members and help them obtain duly deserved benefits from the Veterans Administration.
There are a lot of veterans out there not receiving these types of benefits, Petersen said. He said most often he hears them say they are not aware of these benefits. Or, they say they didn't want to take benefits away from others. Or they feel they didn't deserve them. "Trust me, as a veteran, as a surviving spouse, you deserve these benefits."