For just a second, all was silent.
Even the howling northern wind that peppered down freezing rain and slapped the American flags lining the Bolivar courthouse square into frozen attention seemed to hold its breath just after 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11.
Veterans, Polk Countians and members of the Bolivar chapter of the Disabled American Veterans gathered Monday at the courthouse to mark Veterans Day, honoring those who served and remembering those who didn’t come home.
As the event started, Gary Christopher with the DAV gave a short prayer, then turned the ceremony over to members of the Ozarks Memorial Honor Guard.
Bob Jens, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the unit, gave an order, and riflemen Pat Overmyer, Alice McIntosh and Vanek Star fired a volley of three blank rounds each, perforating the frigid stillness with a three-gun salute.
For Christopher, there was never a chance Monday’s conditions — which saw temperatures dip below 25 degrees with freezing rain and snow — would stop the ceremony.
“That was never a consideration,” he said. “ We were not going to stop. One way or another, there was going to be a ceremony on the square. It might have been just me out there saying a silent prayer and saluting the flag, but it was going to happen.”
Christopher, who said he’s been involved in the ceremony for at least eight years, did concede Monday’s conditions were “probably the worst weather I’ve ever experienced out there.”
But, to still see veterans and civilians take part in honoring American service members was inspiring, he said.
“That means it’s still important to people,” he said. “We’re thankful it’s still important to people.”
For him, it’s part of the job, he said.
“We raised our hands,” he said. “We took the oath. There are obligations that come with that, and one of them is making sure that the honors and the traditions are continued.”
After the salute, the playing of Taps by bugler Patti Glover and a second prayer, the group retired to the DAV post, where Missouri state Rep. Mike Stephens spoke about his sincere gratitude to veterans.
Once just laymen, those who fought for the U.S. were “handed a responsibility by destiny,” Stephens said, alluding to the World War I doughboy statue outside the courthouse.
“It’s someone who could have been planning his crops or stocking shelves, then watching his mother cry as he left for war,” Stephens said.
In the 100 years since the first Armistice Day in 1919, Stephens said Americans still gather to honor “succeeding generations of farmers and store clerks that have answered the call to arms.”
“We lift them and declare them to be our heroes,” Stephens said.
Honor lives here
Sgt. Paul Mincks, who served in World War II, was one of five Polk County veterans profiled in a special section of the Bolivar Herald-Free Press on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Mincks, along with World War II veterans Bill Dickerson, David Estes, Georgia Payne and Linda Pronold, shared the stories of their service for publication, ensuring future generations of Polk Countians have access to firsthand accounts of the war, which lasted for six years and resulted in an estimated 70-85 million deaths worldwide.
Each veteran featured in the section will receive a framed copy of the front page of their story, and the BH-FP was on hand to present Mincks with his print.
“We’re just happy to be associated with this occasion,” BH-FP publisher Jamey Honeycutt told those gathered. “We’re happy to dedicate the front page of (Saturday’s) paper to all veterans and also this year to publish a special section on World War II veterans from Polk County.”
Mincks, the only veteran featured in the special section to attend Monday’s ceremony, said he was proud of his service.
“I was glad to do it,” he said. “I’d go fight again if I needed to. I love my country.”