It was standing room only in the Morris Community High School auditorium on Saturday during the annual Veterans Day ceremony hosted by the Morris American Legion Post 294.
The original plan of the parade from Chapin Park to the Grundy County Courthouse and ceremony on the lawn was canceled due to below freezing temperatures on Saturday morning.
Hundreds packed into the warm auditorium, which proved to Morris American Legion Commander Carter Corsello that switching the venue was the right decision.
“We knew that most of our audience was older, so this was better for them,” Corsello said.
“On Veterans Day, we are required to celebrate people’s service to the country. Morris has always embraced veterans and people who have served. This is small town and middle America.”
The Posting of the Colors along with the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance began the service. Music by the Shabbona/White Oak School Band, the Saratoga Marching Band and the Morris Marching Band filled the aisles and stage throughout the entire ceremony.
Standing In the Word Ministries Pastor Richard Giovannetti gave the invocation and benediction. Giovannetti and his wife Cathy have a son who served in the military for 12 years and currently retired.
The ceremony welcomed veterans to speak about their service and what Veterans Day means to them.
World War II veteran Elmo Younger spoke from his chair on stage. At the age of 95, Corsello held his microphone and he rifled through pages of his speech, which highlighted many veterans who gave their all for our freedoms.
Alan Love spoke of his service in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. He said when we first arrived he stood by boxes with a terrible odor. When he asked about the boxes, he was told it was the morgue.
“I didn’t feel lucky being there and I hoped I wouldn’t end up in one of those bags. I started praying and I prayed the whole time I was there and I made it home. People ask what they can do for veterans and people currently serving in harms way. I say pray for them. You can’t go over to help, but prayers are heard by our Almighty God,” Love said.
Morris VFW Commander Jerry Zeborowski spoke of duty and honor and reminded the public that, at one time, especially during the Vietnam War, being a service member was not popular and welcome home celebrations were almost non-existent, a far cry of what a welcome home ceremony has become today.
He also urged any politicians in the audience to help fix what he feels were two major problems he would love to see solved in his life time.
“One, we need to end the homeless veteran problem, and two, we need to do a hell of a lot better job screening veterans when they come home, and get them the services needed to transition home,” Zeborowski said.
Corsello spoke about how he could never understand why someone would come up and thank him for his service in the military. He said veterans do not enlist to seek accolades, but as duty to country. He said after years of contemplation, he understands now why people want to thank him, and offered a heartfelt thank you to each and every veteran in the room for their sacrifices.
The Laying of the Wreaths ceremony took place, but the wreaths were placed on the stage and were put in the correct spots around the outside and inside of the Grundy County Courthouse later that afternoon.
Barb Boma of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Marge Ferguson of the American Legion Auxiliary, Jeannie Terando of the Gold Star Mothers and Families and Jim Cronis of the VFW Auxiliary each laid a wreath in honor of the veterans.