By Robert Tomlinson
CENTREVILLE — An annual Veteran’s Day tradition in Centreville had its biggest outing yet this past weekend.
On Saturday, Nov. 11, the village’s Downtown Development Authority sponsored an annual Veteran’s Day salute, which featured a walk along the village’s Military Freedom Walk to Yoder’s Country Market and a small ceremony held in the dining area of Yoder’s afterward.
“This is the best turnout we’ve had by far,” Centreville DDA Program Manager Pattie Bender said. “I was very surprised, but very grateful, because I’m grateful for the veterans.”
The celebration started early, with a few members of the DDA and State Sen. Jonathan Lindsey visiting veterans housed at Fairview Nursing Home and giving them gifts. Around 9:30 a.m., more than three dozen community members, which included a number of veterans, met at Yoder’s and boarded a St. Joseph County Transportation Authority bus that took the group to the corner of Clinton Street and Main Street to walk the Military Freedom Walk. There were so many people attending the walk – nearly 40 in total – that two bus trips were necessary to transport everyone.
After walking past the dozens of names hung on the poles, accompanied by a St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department vehicle along the side of M-86, the group ended up back at Yoder’s a brief ceremony, led by St. Joseph County commissioner Rick Shaffer. Veterans in attendance, as well as participants in the walk, were treated to free donuts and coffee in the dining area, which was reserved for the group.
Each of the nearly two dozen veterans in attendance got up at the beginning of the ceremony to say their names, what branch of the military they were from, and how long they served. It was then followed by Lindsey, himself an Army Special Forces veteran from 2009-2016, addressing the crowd and thanking the veterans for their service.
“When Veteran’s Day rolls around, it’s something that’s very important to me,” Lindsey said. “It means a lot to me to see a community coming around an event like this. Just the simple fact that Centreville – and I’ve seen more and more communities embracing something like this – makes these visible and obvious expressions for those people that served is incredibly meaningful.”
Lindsey added that he hopes those that become veterans in the future get treated well.
“One of the most powerful things we can do if we really value our veterans is put pressure on the people who are in charge of our military to make sure the people who are serving now, our future veterans, are really treated the best way they can be,” Lindsey said.
County Commissioner Dennis Allen, who served in the Marines, addressed the crowd next, saying it was an “honor and privilege” to be able to serve.
“If you want to join an elite group, join the military,” Allen said. “To me, there’s no greater honor, other than serving the Lord, than to serve our great country.”
The program then concluded with a singing of “God Bless America,” led by Shaffer.
Those in attendance who served in the military said they enjoyed the celebration and thanked organizers for putting on the event.
“It’s sort of become a tradition here,” Greg Rieth said. “It was great to see there was a lot more people this year than last. It’s an honor to be able to serve with folks like these and to see them out here expressing their support for the military as well.”
“It was a good day for a walk, and it was nice to see so many people here and to see people that we don’t always see,” Dixie Deemer said. “It’s nice to see the veterans being appreciated.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or email@example.com.