From the battlefields of the American Revolution to relief efforts being staged today by U.S. Marines in the typhoon-ravaged Philippine islands, military service requires sacrifices for the men and women in uniform and their families.
Those sacrifices often continue long after the battle.
That message echoed throughout the region Monday as veterans from multiple generations, their families and supporters gathered for Veterans Day remembrances.
Troops serving in America’s latest military actions, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, were honored Monday with the unveiling of a bike path trailhead in downtown Hammond.
The new pair of custom-built benches, a brick trailhead, bike racks and a solar-lighted flag pole at the intersection of the Monon and Erie Lackawana bike trails were dedicated.
The community effort for the bike path tribute at Lyman Avenue and Douglas Street was spearheaded by Ernie Dillon of Hammond’s American Legion Victory Post 168 and the Veterans Views Radio Show on WJOB.
A symbolic and practical tribute, the resting space for those who walk and bike the two paths came together through the efforts of Hammond businesses and individuals, Dillon said.
“We broke ground on 9/11 and 60 days later, at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, we’re dedicating this space as a place where people can sit, relax and enjoy,” he said. “We raised $10,000 in money and in-kind donations to accomplish this.”
Team Depot, a foundation of Home Depot, donated a $5,500 grant to the effort. It was a labor of love, Hammond Home Depot manager Simon McGuckin said.
“An army of employees in orange volunteered their time,” McGuckin said about this effort that’s part of the Home Depot’s $18 million commitment to help America’s veterans. “A thank you to the people of Hammond. The funding for this project got a lot of support from the community.”
Other Hammond businesses that helped make the bike path tribute a reality included Miss Print, Nies Engineering, Hammond Fence, Pick-A-Tool, Sweet Home Bakery and Hawk Enterprises.
The patriot salute included songs by the doo-wop group Remember When and by Hammond Fence owner George Huskisson.
A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. told those gathered that Veterans Day “is for those who made the decision to join.”
The bike path tribute honors those who “came back whole, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and those who are still in harm’s way,” said U.S. Rep. Pete J. Visclosky, D-Merrillville.
“It’s about time we are recognizing (veterans). I hope this is not the end,” said State Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.
There are 500,000 veterans in the State of Indiana and 47,000 of those veterans are women, said State Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond.
“The state of Indiana has to be more friendly to veterans. They need the support of the people. We need a veterans’ court in Crown Point. They need jobs,” Mrvan said.
The Indiana University School of Medicine-Northwest and Indiana University Northwest hosted a remembrance ceremony Monday to honor veterans who donated their bodies for medical education and research through the International Human Cadaver Prosection Program.
Ernest Talarico, assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology course director, said the university wanted to honor patients who also served in the military. He read the names of 10 patients who donated their bodies to science.
Ryan Slabaugh, 22, of Napanee, said the program was especially moving for him because he plans to focus on emergency medicine and enter the U.S. Navy. He said he expects to begin serving in about 2017.