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Veterans Day ceremony honors military, families

Posted: November 11, 2011 4:04 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2011 5:00 a.m.
Michael Ulmer/C-I

U.S. Army Col. William “Mark” Kehrer discusses the importance of service members and their families during Friday’s Veterans Day observance. American Legion Post 17 past commanders W. Ashby Rhame (seated, left) and Perry McCoy (seated, right) listen to Kehrer address the crowd.

Before an audience at James Leroy Belk American Legion Post No. 17, U.S. Army Col. William “Mark” Kehrer spoke on the importance of not only the nation’s veterans, but also their families. Kehrer spoke during the post’s Veteran’s Day observance Friday in Camden.

Kehrer is deputy director of operations/assistant chief of staff G3 for the Third U.S. Army, U.S. Army Central.  The ceremony marked the first Veterans Day ceremony at Post 17 since the consolidation of the Third Army from Ft. McPherson, Ga., to Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter.

“We’re your new neighbors,” Kehrer said. “We moved this summer and we’re glad to be in the Midlands. We brought in about 325 families, about 800 family members. About half of them live in the Shaw/Sumter area, the other half live in the Columbia/Fort Jackson area, and we have a scattering of people that are in great places like Camden.”   

Kehrer said respecting military service is more than just remembering the nation’s servicemen and women.

“Families are connected to every soldier, sailor, airman and marine that’s fighting for the cause of freedom,” Kehrer said. “I can tell you that those families bear the scars of war just like those veterans do.”

Kehrer also spoke about what he called the two foundations of the country’s military -- professionalism and compassion.

“The United States military is the best military around the world. Our professionalism is what drives our confidence in fighting our nation’s wars. Every veteran that has gone ahead of us needs to hold their head high because that professionalism is something that is passed on from generations for everyone in uniform. The compassion of American soldiers is also amazing. We’re the most lethal military in the world, but strength without compassion is brutality. The veterans who have gone before us have left that legacy and we willingly and proudly walk in their footsteps,” Kehrer said.

He also sent a message to the youth in the audience.

“There are some of you out there that are thinking about going into the military. I strongly encourage you to do that,” Kehrer told them. “There is no better organization that you can go into that will turn you into a man or a woman of character, of honor, of value, and instill in you the idea of selfless sacrifice and service to your nation. The service to your country, even if you only enlist for a few years, will leave an indelible mark on your character and you’ll be a better man or woman as a result of that.”  

The ceremony Friday -- Nov. 11 -- was held at 11 a.m., exactly 100 years from the date and time of the signing

W. Ashby Rhame, past Post 17 commander, served as master of ceremonies. The program was sponsored by Post 17, Sanders Stoney Post No. 203 and Veterans of Foreign War Post No. 5928.

Rhame recognized State Rep. Laurie Funderburk and Camden Mayor Jeffrey Graham during the ceremony. Cadet Pvt. First Class Jordan Theile, a member of Camden High School JROTC, also read a poem titled
“What is a Veteran?”

Featured guests included Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan and S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Director Margaret Barber. Past Post 17 Commander Perry McCoy read the names of Kershaw County POWs, while Post 17’s Clay Carruth and Post 203’s Jasper Boswell read an honor roll of Kershaw County military who have died in combat.

DJJ’s Birchwood High School JROTC cadets, the Camden Military Academy band and cadets, Camden High School (CHS) JROTC and CHS band all participated in Friday’s ceremony.

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