It was a seasonably cool and sunny day when about 200 people gathered at the St. Francois County Courthouse steps in Farmington at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month to commemorate Veterans Day before the county memorial honoring the local men and women who fought and died for this nation’s freedoms.

The solemn ceremony began with an invocation given by Joel Meador, Farmington VFW post chaplain, followed by the posting of the colors by the Farmington High School Air Force JROTC and the playing of the national anthem.

Farmington VFW Post Commander Dwain Asberry welcomed those present and introduced the day’s two guest speakers — Mike Schoelhamer, constituent specialist for U.S. Congressman Jason Smith; and Missouri 116th District Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington.

Addressing the crowd, Schoelhamer said in part, “Across this great country and throughout the world, Americans will pause today to honor or brave fighting men and women. We recognize that all our veterans have given something of themselves to this country and some have given all — laying down their lives to defend the freedoms we hold so dear.

“As we stand here today at the St. Francois County Veterans Memorial, I am honored to not only be here as a veteran myself, but to also recognize my great-uncle who is listed on this memorial. Private First Class Mike Tyndyk, U.S. Army 7th Cavalry, was a resident of St. Francois County and a graduate of Leadwood High School.

“[Tyndyk] was just 27 years old when he lost his life on Oct. 22, 1944, during the Pacific Campaign at Leyte Island in World War II. His valor and commitment to serve his country is what inspired his nephew, my father, also originally from St. Francois County, to join the Army and serve in Baumholder, Germany in the 1960s. I was inspired by both to join the Army in 1987, leading up to my 28 years of service in the U.S. Army.”

Offering his thoughts on Veterans Day 2017, Rep. Engler thanked those present for having the honor over the past 20 years of addressing veterans in a variety of roles — Farmington mayor, state representative and state senator.

“Going as a state senator to Elsinore, to Arcadia Valley, to Ste. Genevieve, to Jefferson County to speak for Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs was humbling,” he said. “I used a lot of people and a lot of instances from Farmington to try to enlighten our high school kids and college kids around the district about the sacrifices that had been made.

“I mean — they don’t get it, for the most part! A high school senior has never lived in a world without a cellphone. They’ve never lived in an era without FaceTime, without fax machines or email. I talked about Ferd Thompson being in the Seabees and left less than 10 days after he got married. He didn’t see his wife again for four years.

“They didn’t get to fly home. They didn’t get to fax or email. The mail — and I’m not saying anything that a lot of veterans here don’t already know — might have been a month behind. It might take a month to get your Thanksgiving greetings by the time it caught up to you in the South Pacific. Think if you’re a senior and for all the time you’re in high school you didn’t get to see your wife. And the sacrifices at home — she didn’t get to see her husband. They had to live without things here.”

In closing, an emotional Engler thanked veterans for their sacrifice in fighting for the many freedoms Americans enjoy, saying, “People of this town and of this community are proud to know you and we want to say 'thank you.'”

Following the conclusion of the speeches, wreaths were laid at the Veterans Memorial by representatives of the Farmington American Legion Post 416, Farmington American Legion Post 416 Auxiliary, Daughters of the American Revolution, Farmington Disabled American Veterans Chapter 12, Farmington VFW Post 5896, Farmington VFW Post 5896 Auxiliary and Farmington AMVETS Post 113.

Next, a volley of three shots was fired by VFW Post 5896 and American Legion Post 416, led by retired First Sergeant Jerry Rawlins, followed by “Taps” performed by a member of the Farmington High School Air Force JROTC and the benediction given by Chaplain Meador.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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