Veteran’s Day: A Proud Moment

The small town of Amherst, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie just west of Cleveland, has an exceptional veteran’s mural painted on the wall on one of its downtown buildings. The mural has four sections depicting the WWII flag raising on Iwo Jima, a Korean War mosaic, a Vietnam Wall illustration titled “Reflections,” and a Gulf War montage showing soldiers and weapons from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Many of the soldiers’ faces in the paintings are imagines of actual GIs from the local area killed in those wars. The Vietnam panel, however, has a face that the artist, Mike Sekletar, imagined just to fill a spot in the painting. Sometime after the mural was finished, Mike got a call from a parent who wanted to know where Mike got the image of their son who had also been killed in Vietnam. Wow.

Lou Maglio, newscaster from Fox 8 News, MC’d the ceremony. Among the several hundred attendees were 350 students from a local high school who had been bussed in for the event.

After an Invocation and the National Anthem, I was introduced as the guest speaker.

I kept my talk brief because of other program features and in consideration of the 40-degree temperatures. I led off with a humorous story about a pilot making his first aircraft carrier landing without his seat harness fastened which appeared to be enjoyed by the audience. I then spoke of the pride I felt wearing the uniform and serving my country. Finally, I saluted my brothers and sisters in all services, including our communities’ first responders who watch our back 24/7. That comment brought the audience to its feet in a standing ovation.

Following my talk, tribute was paid to two men whose images are prominent in the mural’s painting. Both had passed away in the previous year. Next, the Amherst Veterans Military Honor Guard fired a 21-gun salute followed by the beautiful singing of God Bless America by Barb Smith, secretary of the Amherst Veterans Mural Association Committee.

I found the entire Amherst Veteran’s Tribute to be a moving and inspiring experience. Hats off to John Sekletar (Chair) and Mike Bokulich (Co-Chair) for such a meaningful and well-planned Veteran’s Day celebration.

“Thanks for your service,” you say. I reply, “I was proud to serve.”

6 thoughts on “Veteran’s Day: A Proud Moment

  1. Jim, as always, very interesting accounts of your speeches, etc. If you don’t knock off all of these memoirs I will have to get past the forward in all of your books. I will have to take time off from my heavy schedule in The Villages. Keep the info coming. Hope to see you guys soon.

  2. I can’t imagine the concentration it must take to be a combat pilot in a war situation. There had to be some fear involved though you likely couldn’t spend time worrying while in combat. I, too, had to represent our country on the battlefields of Viet Nam. Fortunately I was in an artillery battalion and in most cases not under immediate threat from the enemy though we were transported by helicopter being attached to the First Cav division so like you there was also the possibility of being shot out of the sky. Also our battalion had to set up our own perimeter. Unlike the appreciation the current veterans receive that return from combat zones, the only people that were happy for our return was our wives, mothers, and sisters. My Dad was already dead when i went overseas. My kids were to young to know much about me.
    Certainly, despite that I’m glad I served our country.

  3. Jim,
    You are a credit to the Navy and a true American patriot! I salute you.

  4. I’ll bet Captain John Orrilll was smiling down as you spoke.

  5. Bravo, Lt. Jim Stark!
    Thanks for your kind comments!
    Just completed reading the riveting book of Jim Stark’s Navy memoir, “Two Turning, Two Burning.”
    All should read this entertainingly educational account of Lt.Stark’s time serving his country!

    Now, to acquire a copy of his:
    The True Adventures of Jim Stark!

    All should contact Jim to speak before your crowd!
    He’s done it all!

  6. Sounds like a memorable day for you and all those who heard you speak!

Comments are closed.