Centreville walk honors local veterans
CENTREVILLE — Centreville’s Freedom Walk along West Main Street between Franklin Street and Eleanor Drive has over 120 names of local veterans both past and present on signs hanging from the village’s power poles.
It’s also the perfect place for an event to remember said local veterans on Veterans Day.
Friday morning, Centreville’s Downtown Development Authority hosted a walk to honor local military veterans on the Freedom Walk, attended by nearly 20 local residents and veterans, many of whom served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The walk began at Yoder’s Country Market, with a St. Joseph County Transportation Authority bus taking participants from Yoder’s to the beginning of the walk on Franklin Street. Participants then walked all the way back to Yoder’s, passing by every single veteran’s name on the power poles, where a program to remember veterans of the past and present was held in the store’s dining area.
DDA Program Manager Pattie Bender said it was the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic the walk was held, and that honoring veterans with the walk was important.
“I think it’s important that everybody honor our veterans now and always,” Bender said. “We’re free because of them.”
There was a slight chill in the air with Friday’s walk, but that didn’t stop some of the veterans from wearing their uniforms to the event. One of those was retired Lt. Col. William Cooley, who served in the Army from 1969 to 1991, who said the walk “makes my heart feel really good.”
“When you’re a veteran, you put a lot into the military, and it can be a difficult life. It’s just nice to realize that people thank you and honor you for the service that you did,” Cooley said. “Also, for the families, we think about the veterans but the families have to put up with their loved ones being gone overseas, maybe for multiple tours, and they should get a lot of credit too.”
Thomas Hagerman, who served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force from 1981 to 1993, said it was great to honor his “brothers and sisters” in the military. Seeing the names on the signs passing by, he said it made him feel like “part of a family.”
Greg Reith, a sergeant in the Marine Corps from 1967 to 1971, said he was proud to be on Friday’s walk.
“I’m proud to be here to show respect for all our veterans, past, present and future,” Reith said. “This is great to meet the old folks and see where they’ve been.”
Along the route, there were some cars that honked their horns to show their appreciation of the veterans walking by. There was also a brief pause near the St. Joseph County Grange Fair, where a few veterans living at Fairview Nursing Home came out to thank the veterans walking by. Those walking on the path shook hands with the veterans, thanking them for their service as they passed by.
Upon their return to Yoder’s, veterans in attendance received a coffee mug with a flag and a number of goodies from the store. Each veteran in attendance was also recognized and introduced, as well as told a little bit about their time in the service.
After the introductions, Cooley did a presentation about Veterans Day, its origins, and the sacrifices veterans have made over the years.
“We have members that have served in combat, laid their lives on the line, have been shot at, and it goes on and on what they’ve been put through,” Cooley said. “They’ve also made great sacrifices. Many veterans have served multiple tours, whether it be Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and these are dangerous areas in our world today.”
Cooley added that it’s important each and every day to honor those who served to protect the United States, recalling a moment where two kids came up to him at a restaurant to thank him for his service.
“I can’t tell you how much that meant,” Cooley said of the moment. “You can thank a veteran, just thank a veteran, buy them a meal, get them a cup of coffee, put your flag out. Anything that says, we honor you and we thank you for the sacrifice and service you went through, and I thank you for your family that was there with you when you served.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org.