MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 14, 2012

Saluting those who served


— By Travis Sloat

Times Correspondent

Christina Hanvey said bringing her choir to sing at the Fort Gibson National Cemetery Veterans Day service was fantastic.

“We have a really long tradition of honoring our veterans,” sad Hanvey, the Westville High School choir director. “I brought 28 students with me today, and I hope that they see the importance of singing to honor those who have served our country.”

Hanvey’s students took part in the hour-long service on Sunday by singing the national anthem and a patriotic medley. Cold and rainy weather held attendees at bay, and those who did brave the elements huddled under the pavilion and several temporary shelters. Some spent time outside paying their respects at different gravesites before and after the service, which paid tribute to U.S. veterans.

Eager eyes searched the sky for the traditional Air Force flyover, but the moment never came.

Bill Isbell, the program assistant at Fort Gibson National Cemetery, said the staff had been planning the ceremony for the last three months. “We started with the Air Force to get the flyover,” he said. “I’m sure the deck was too low, and that’s why they couldn’t do it today. It’s disappointing when that can’t happen.”

State Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, gave the welcome, followed by the presentation of colors by the Cherokee and Keetoowah Band honor guards. Chaplain Forrest Kirk then led the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the invocation.

Speakers included Linda LoPinto of the Veterans Administration regional office, and James Floyd, director of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center.

“This is a community effort,” Floyd said. “We want to make sure that these events occur and we take the time out of our schedules to recognize those who have provided service to our country.”

The American Legion Post 15 in Muskogee provided the gun salute, and Fort Gibson Middle School’s Morgan Gilliam stood resolutely in the rain and wind, playing taps  to end the ceremony.

Isbell said he received several phone calls asking him to cancel the event because of the weather, but he refused. “I’d rather we have it and suffer through the weather than cancel it and not have anything,” he said. “We couldn’t do it tomorrow because we have burials to do. “It might be a national holiday for everyone else, but it’s a work day for us when we have soldiers to bury.” Hanvey said the service was great, and she noticed something during the event, which put things in perspective for her.

“There was a lady crying the entire time we were singing,” Hanvey said.

“It was amazing to see what it meant to people here. I don’t think we’ll ever really know how much it does mean to people when we get honor our veterans.”