BROWNSBURG — Getting a jump on Veterans’ Day, the Brownsburg Rotary Club held its first ever Veterans Appreciation Day during its weekly meeting at Dawson’s Too Sticks & Stones on Thursday.
During the ceremony, 27 veterans were honored, some of which were also Rotary Club members and others who were from the community.
Rotary Club member and U.S. Army veteran Charles Ratliff, who served from 1942 to ‘45, was the Guest of Honor.
Brownsburg High School Interact Club members David Huston, Jessica Merritt, and Kevin Albert helped to honor Ratliff by presenting him with an American flag and a signed poster. The Interact Club, which stands for International Action, is a high school based service club that works alongside the local rotary club and helps out with projects in the community and internationally.
Rotary Club President David Heffner gave a quick background on Ratliff’s army career.
“Charlie joined the Army in 1942 and shipped out to France,” he said. “He served overseas for a little bit and at the end of the war in Europe, (he was) home on leave and was on his way to Japan when they dropped the atomic bombs. Charlie was subsequently discharged from the Army in 1945. Charlie is our oldest living World War II veteran. I thought it was appropriate to take the opportunity to honor Charlie for his service to our country and the Interact students have been kind enough to step up.”
The club also honored soldiers listed as POWs (prisoners of war) or MIAs (missing in action) by setting a table honoring them.
Rotary Club member Vicki Murphy, who served in the U.S. Army from 1993 to ‘99, explained the significance of the table.
“You may have noticed the small table, the place of honor here,” she said. “It’s set for one, and this table is our way of symbolizing the fact that members of our military are missing from our midst.
“This table that is set for one is a small table symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his oppressors. The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. The single red rose displayed in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones of these comrades in arms who keep the faith, awaiting their return. The red ribbon tied so prominently on the vase is reminiscent of the red ribbon worn upon the lapel and breast of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand accounting of the missing.
“The candle is lit. It’s symbolizing the upward reach of their unconquerable spirit. A slice of lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate. There is salt upon the bread plate, it’s symbolic of the family’s tears as they wait. The glass is inverted. They cannot toast with us this day. The chair is empty, remember they are not here.”
The club then adopted a cake cutting ceremony borrowed from the U.S. Marine Corps, to honor Ratliff alongside the youngest Rotary Club member and veteran Jon Flowers, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2007 to ‘11.
The ceremony, which was slightly altered to fit the Rotary Club event, mandates for the cake to be cut with a Mameluke sword and that the first piece of cake be presented to the oldest veteran who then abruptly passes it to the youngest veteran.
“(It’s) signifying the passing of experience and knowledge from the old to the young … emphasizing the fact that we care for our young (veterans) before we look to our own needs,” Murphy said.
The club then honored all 27 veterans with a small flag and a certificate thanking them for their service.
After the event, Heffner said as a veteran, he understands the importance of honoring those who have served.
“I’m a veteran. I served in the Marine Corps and my dad served in World War II, so I understand it,” he said. “I understand how important it is and the sacrifices that are made by veterans to defend our country.”
As a Rotarian, he acknowledged it was part of the club’s duty to honor veterans.
“I think it’s our responsibility really, to be able to reach out to veterans like this,” Heffner said. “I’m hoping that this becomes an annual event.”