The citizens of El Dorado expressed their thanks to all area veterans during the recognition ceremony at the El Dorado Bronco's game on Saturday evening.
"Thank you for serving our country and protecting our freedoms," said Announcer Bill Young. "Thank you for being a veteran."
To begin the ceremony, the stadium welcomed the Legion Riders with their motorcycles displaying prominent American Flags.
"The American Legion Riders will also help us to thank our veterans," Young continued. "There are over 206,000 Riders. The Riders in Kansas have even formed the Patriot Guard to protect the sanctity of military funerals from protesters. Riders commonly escort military units home from combat overseas and have donated millions of dollars to various local, state and national charities."
The color guard from the American Legion Post 81 was also present to honor the veterans.
"A veteran is a person who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check to America for now up to and including their lives,” Young said. “Since the end of WWI, over 520,000 service men and women have paid the ultimate price. It is those and all veterans that we are here to honor tonight. We will first do so with the playing of ‘Tap’s."
Kevin Pickrell, a retired veteran of the United States Army, played “Taps” in honor of the veterans and Master Sergeant Greg Johnson, a 24-year member of the Air National Guard, led the stadium in the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Colonel Malcom Schaffer, a veteran of the U.S. Army, was the next speaker to take the field.
"We are pleased to have with us tonight Congressman Mike Pompeo," began Schaffer. "Our Fourth District representative serving his second term in the house of representatives."
"It’s great to be here tonight," said Pompeo. "I want to do three things: First of all, it is humbling to be out here with these men and women. Thank you all for the service and what you've given to our nation. I also want to thank all the families. Sometimes we forget the sacrifices of the children when their service member is away. The children who miss their father or their mother during their service. The sacrifices they make to our nation are equally important. God bless you for allowing your family member to serve in the American Armed Forces.
“And finally, we are going to give the first pitch to a very important man,” Pompeo said. “A man who served at a very important time in our nation's history. If you all remember World War II, we talk about D-Day and everything that we accomplished that day. We're marching across Europe and we're defeating the Nazis, and then they launched a counter attack. It's called the Battle of the Bulge. It was the last great threat the Nazis opposed on American forces during World War II. The man that we have tonight with us was part of stopping that march across Europe for the Germans.
“There is no one more important than this man who fought and prepared to give all for our freedom,” Pompeo continued. “Thank you all for coming out tonight to support our veterans. Thank you all so much for all that you have done. May God bless Kansas and the United States of America."
WWII veteran throws out 1st pitch
Wilfred Pettus, a World War II veteran who served in the Battle of the Bulge, was given the honor of throwing the first pitch during the El Dorado Bronco's Veteran recognition ceremony on Saturday evening.
Pettus, who was drafted into the Army shortly after graduating high school, served as an infantryman during the war.
"Back in those days, many of the guys were drafted almost immediately after graduating high school," he said.
While in the Army, Pettus was given the opportunity to travel to Europe.
"I traveled to Europe, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and England," explained Pettus.
His time overseas was not peaceful and his unit faced many challenges.
"When my unit got to northern France, we hit combat in what they call the third army," Pettus said. "After about two months, the Germans made an attack in Belgium in December 1944, which was the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. We were transferred over to Belgium to help with that."
Despite the trauma he encountered on the battlefield, Pettus took a trip back to Belgium later in life with his daughter.
"We visited a lot of the areas where I fought in the war," he explained. "It was much warmer, but it did bring back a lot of memories of fighting the Germans.”
At nearly 90 years old, Pettus was among those honored during the ceremony at the El Dorado Bronco's Game on Saturday evening.
Kari Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.