A stinging wind grabbed hold of the flag being carried by an altar server in the procession, along with all the matching star-spangled banners lining the walkway.
They waved but never faltered.
Bundled-up students, families and local veterans were on their way from St. Stanislaus Church in Wardsville to the parish cemetery.
There, Monsignor David Cox would bless the new Veterans Memorial.
“Remember, kids, it’s part of our penance,” said Msgr. Cox, pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish and of St. Margaret of Antioch Parish in Osage Bend. “We’re going to offer being cold for the repose of the souls of all those who have died while defending our country and for those who have served in our Armed Forces.”
It was Veterans Day and the feast of St. Martin of Tours.
The day started with Mass in church.
After Holy Communion, a group of fifth-graders saluted veterans with a song called “Heroes,” including the words: “Heroes, that is what you are to me. ... You keep America strong, safe and free.”
“We praise our God for this great nation,” said their teacher, Connie Andrews.
“Brave and loyal men and women have steadfastly served in their chosen branch of the military,” she stated. “These brave men and women are our heroes.”
As the people left church, students handed out plastic soldiers, each with a tag reminding people to pray for those who are serving in the military.
The people followed Msgr. Cox and servers carrying the flag, a candle, holy water and the crucifix.
They processed through an avenue of flags from the cemetery gate to the mausoleum.
The people gathered around the granite memorial, inscribed with the names of deceased parishioners who served in the military.
Msgr. Cox thanked all the people who were responsible for having the memorial built.
He offered a prayer of blessing:
“Loving Father, we ask You to look down upon us today as we bless this memorial in honor of all of our veterans. We ask You to help us remember the price that is paid for the preservation of our freedom, especially our freedom of religion. We ask You to bless this memorial and also to bless the families of all those who mourn the loss of their loved ones who are buried here.”
The priest sprinkled holy water onto the memorial while making the Sign of the Cross.
He then led the assembly in praying an “Our Father,” a “Hail Mary” and a “Glory Be” for the repose of the souls of all veterans who are at rest in the cemetery.
They closed by singing “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.”
“You answered the call”
Not long thereafter, a Veterans Day Mass and prayer service began in St. Peter Church in Jefferson City.
The annual observance, sponsored by the St. Peter Parish Holy Name Men’s Association, has been a Capital City tradition for over 60 years.
Military veterans, public-safety personnel and first-responders served in various liturgical roles.
Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, vicar general of the diocese and pastor of St. Michael Parish in Russellville, presided at the Mass and preached the homily.
“Interestingly enough, we don’t use an apostrophe before or after the ‘s’ in Veterans Day,” he noted. “It’s Veterans Day, because it belongs to everyone.”
He spoke to the veterans about three words beginning with “H.”
“We are grateful and give honor to every single living veteran today,” said Msgr. Kurwicki. “Being grateful that you’re a hero. Being grateful that you have honor. Being grateful that you’re a giver of hope. May our prayers today, and may the Eucharist that we receive today, give us the spiritual strength we need to continue on.”
After Holy Communion, St. Peter parishioner Jack Dayton gave a reflection and led the praying of the Veterans Day Prayer.
“Veterans Day is a time to reflect on all the brave men and women among us who, at one time or another, put on the uniform and served to protect our country, our liberty and our lives,” he stated. “Every citizen owes a debt that can never be repaid, a debt to every veteran for their service and our freedom. However, we can honor them, be thankful for them and remember them.
“All those who served — not only those who died — have sacrificed and done their duty,” he noted.
“Veterans Day is where I can reminisce of the truly great sacrifices, and in some cases, the ultimate sacrifice that my brothers and sisters in service were willing to endure so that this country remains the land of the free and the home of their brave,” he said.
Members of the Knights of Columbus Dan C. Coppin and St. Jude Fourth Degree assemblies, dressed in full regalia, served as the honor guard for the prayer service.
Military veterans and members of various veterans’ organizations gathered in the center aisle of the church, holding flags and banners aloft and joining the assembly in singing the “Star Spangled Banner” and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Members of the Samuel F. Gearhart Detachment of the Marine Corps League provided a Three Volley Rifle Salute outside the church before the playing of “Taps” on a trumpet in the choir loft.