Amy Cunningham
More than 200 area residents came together at the Spring Hill Civic Center Gymnasium on Saturday to honor veterans at the community’s annual Veterans Day Celebration.

LEFT: Don Stevens, left, and Ed Hodge salute following a presentation that remembers those who are missing in action. Each item on the stage is a symbol. “We call your attention to this small table, which occupies a place of dignity and honor near the head table,” Hodge said during the ceremony. “It is set for one symbolizing the fact that members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POWs and MIAs. We call them comrades. They are unable to be with their loved ones and families tonight, so we join together to pay our humble tribute to them and bear witness to their continued absence.” Staff photo by Amy Cunningham

The event, now in its fifth year, was hosted by American Legion Post 350, the Ladies Auxiliary Post 350 and the Spring Hill Historical Society.
Attendees included members of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Ladies Auxiliary.  Also in attendance were local government officials and including State Representative Pat Apple.
The celebration started with a rousing assortment of patriotic songs played by the Spring Hill High School orchestra.  Following the orchestra’s performance, the SHHS Madrigals continued to honor veterans through song.  Members of local Boy and Girl Scout troops then presented the flag and the ceremony was under way.
Jim Wilson, of the Historical Society, welcomed the crowd by reminding citizens of the importance of recognizing the people who’ve made sacrifices to secure freedom.  He then handed the podium over to Ed Hodge and Don Stephens of Legion Post 350 for what he called the most moving aspect of this type of celebration; recognizing those veterans who are still missing or unaccounted for.
“We are reminded of the thousands of POWs and MIAs still unaccounted for,” Hodge began, as he went through the powerful Table for One program, repeated each year to remind attendees of the thousands of service members who’ve not come home from war.  “Those who have served and those currently serving the uniformed services of the United States are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice. We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are others who have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, deprivation and internment.”
Following Hodge’s program, Spring Hill Council Member Darrell Beck spoke about his nearly 30 year career in the service and the love and support he received as a service member.
He recalled walking through an airport as he returned from deployment in 2004, dressed in military garb.  “I don’t think there was one person I passed who didn’t say, ‘thank you’,” said Beck, the third generation in his family to serve.  He also recalled the gifts and care packages he and fellow comrades received from home.  Finally, he remembered coming home on leave and landing in a Maryland airport only to be greeted by “rows and rows of American Legion members”.
“There are things worth fighting for and the support and love we get from you makes it all worth it,” Beck said.
Beck was followed by feature speaker, Army Chief Warrant Officer Andre Nelson, also a third generation service member who has enjoyed a 26 year career in the military.

A Boy Scout helps with the color guard on Saturday morning. Staff photo by Amy Cunningham

“Each year I find myself to be more humbled by the sacrifices of those who’ve gone before me,” he said.  “Veterans Day is a day to remember those men and women who have and who continue to serve and those who’ve fallen for their country.”
Nelson instructed the crowd to look to their left and right, and said those were the most import reasons to serve in the military.
The program concluded with a drawing by American Legion Post 350 selecting a winner for their annual telescoping flagpole contest.  Attendees were then invited to enjoy food and fellowship in the Civic Center following the ceremony.
“I think this is a thank you for veterans,” said Wilson.  “I think it means a lot to these veterans because they see what they’re fighting for.”