LEROY | About 100 people attending Saturday's service honoring veterans at Stoney Run County Park were urged to contact their congressmen to end the budget deadlock that could affect funding for veterans' services.
Fred Langley, American Legion Department of Indiana Northern vice commander, said he didn't want to get political, but, if a compromise isn't reached, a trillion dollars in cuts across the board will begin Jan. 2 that will affect military spending, which will eliminate jobs, as well as reduce services to veterans.
He said the Legion tries to have someone from its organization attend memorial services for all soldiers who die in service to their country, but the number has become almost more than it can handle. He cited the Valparaiso-based Indiana National Guard 713th Engineers Company, which had six killed and 13 others wounded, some seriously, out of about 95 sent to Afghanistan.
"We hear the statistics and we hear the numbers, but there is a face and these are people," Langley said. "I fear the casualties will increase as the deadline (for withdrawal) gets closer."
Ernie Komasinski, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee president, who presided at the ceremony, said, "All veterans had something in common: They gave up something for their country. Suddenly their lives changed. They were taken from their familiar surroundings and put together with a bunch of strangers. You begin to wonder how things will change in a year or more."
Komasinski said everyone should take time out and not think of their own problems and, instead, think about how lucky they are to live in the United States and to thank a veteran.
"We are the land of the free because of the brave," he said.
The hour-long tribute included the laying of a wreath at the Vietnam Memorial Wall by Linda Kolarik, American Legion Auxiliary 1st District President, and Michael Wooden, American Legion 1st District commander.
Wooden said more than 83,000 military personnel from WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and other conflicts are still unaccounted for, adding, "We will not rest until all are repatriated and their souls can rest in peace." John Rassbach, Indiana American Legion POW/MIA chairman, read the names of those from Lake County who are still missing, and a bell was tolled in their honor.
It was the third time George Emerick, of DeMotte, had attended the service at Stoney Run, and he attended another veterans program Friday at a Kankakee school. A veteran of Vietnam, Emerick called Saturday's event excellent, especially for Vietnam veterans because "we didn't get honored when we came back."