By Herb Ryan
November 13, 2016
Box Elder, SD – Surrounded by friends and comrades, veterans and their families gathered for a Salute to Middle East Veterans at the Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. The event, featured speakers from post 9/11 who talked about their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bill Casper, a member of the Black Hills Writers Group opened the event with the pledge of allegiance to the flag, followed by opening statements by Bill, ” Those who have served and those currently serving the uniformed services are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice. We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are others that have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, deprivation and internment.” Bill Casper then explained the POW MIA Remembrance Ceremony.
“The POW MIA Remembrance Ceremony”
As you entered the meeting room this morning, you may have
noticed a small table in a place of honor. It is set for one. This table
is our way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession of
arms are missing from our midst. They are commonly called POWs
or MIAs, we call them “Brothers.” They are unable to be with us this
morning and so we remember them.
This Table set for one is small — 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 our 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 breasts of thousands who
bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper
accounting of our missing.
The Candle, the candle is lit — Symbolizing the upward reach of
their unconquerable spirit.
A Slice of Lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter
There is Salt upon the bread plate — Symbolic of the families’ tears
as they wait.
The Glass is inverted — They cannot toast with us this morning.
The Chair — The chair is empty. They are not here
All of you who served with them and called them comrades, who
depended upon their might and aid, and relied upon them,
for surely they have not forsaken you.
Until the day they come home.
Following the remembrance ceremony reading, Casper asked Paul and Karen Larson to stand and be recognized. Casper said,”Their son, Army Captain Ben Larson served with distinction in Iraq, but came home suffering from what all too many of our young men and women do, PTSD. Captain Larson suffered from severe ” survivors guilt”, found it impossible to cope with, and passed away. Captain Larson represents that group of heroes who are among us and certainly need all the help we can give them.”
Casper then asked ” Would the veterans who served in WWII, in Korea and Viet Nam please sand or wave so we might say, “Thank you” for your service.” This was followed by speaker Larry Zimmerman, South Dakota State Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs talking on his “in country” experience in Afghanistan. And then Colonel Ryan Carignan the 28th Operation Group deputy commander at Ellsworth Air Force Base described the 34th Bomb Squadrons operations after 911 in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Salute to Middle East Veterans event was a joint effort between Operation Black Hills Cabin and The Black Hills Writers Group.
Following talks by SD Secretary of Veterans Affairs Zimmerman and Colonel Ryan Carignan, Bat Baird, Retired USAF and co-founder of Operation Black Hills Cabin along with OBHC board member Ione Fejfar presented a video on the cabin followed by a talk on its mission.
Other speakers on the program were Retired Air Force Major Bob Liebman, SDNG member Sergeant Erin Dreis, and Corporal Branden Stackenwalt.