Veterans Day in Keokuk
Overcast skies, falling temperatures and a brisk wind could not keep a crowd of more than 100 from attending the annual Veterans Day ceremony in Keokuk.
The event was held at the Keokuk Veterans Memorial. It was one of the largest crowds in recent memory, with every bench filled and dozens of people standing and watching the ceremony.
Mayor Tom Marion was one of two featured speakers.
"We recognize that all of our veterans have given something of themselves to this country and some have given all," said Marion, "laying down their lives to defend the freedoms we hold so dear.”
He said it was an honor to be asked to speak during the roughly 30 minute event.
"May we always be humbly grateful to all those brave American patriots who suffered and sacrificed for the glory of god and for the freedom of America," said Marion.
Marion was joined onstage by Paul George, who is the supervisor of the Keokuk National Cemetery.
"I see a wonderful turnout here today. It is always good to see that what we do is not overlooked," said George. "For us at the national cemetery, every days is Veterans Day. We walk around those headstones and sometimes you just wonder, if people forget and every single time we get up here, all of you are here and we realize that indeed you never forget."
Nov. 11 is not just a day to honor veterans. It is a day to consider the challenges facing them at home and to explore ways to honor them beyond veterans day.
George Morgan serves on the Honor Guard in Keokuk and chairs Lee County's Veterans Affairs Commission.
He said more veterans are reaching out to the commission, especially those who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“Many have filed a claim before they took their uniform off for the last time," said Morgan. "We like to say that these benefits have already been earned, so let’s find out what you got.”
The benefits a veteran qualifies for and what they receive can differ greatly because of the backlog of claims at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Despite the best efforts of VA to try to expedite the cases and stuff, there is that backlog and there is a real sense of frustration among the veteran community," says Morgan.
He encourages all Lee County Veterans to contact the commission and fill out their paperwork so they are ready when the backlog is cleared.
While Morgan says he enjoys seeing the community get behind its veterans on Veterans Day, he says the best way to honor someone for their service is to exercise your freedom through voting or simply being a good person.