‘I went and did a job’: DeKalb County vets humbly accept recognition
SYCAMORE – The air outside was cold and brisk, but the spirit inside was warm and genial, as the community gathered to honor veterans.
“We honor the contributions of service members, who vanquished cruelty ... and replaced it with a light that is the symbol of liberty and freedom,” said Timothy Timmer, past commander of both the Sycamore American Legion and Sycamore VFW.
The annual ceremony, forced into a courtroom on the second floor of the DeKalb County Courthouse because of freezing temperatures and blowing wind, drew more than 30 people. A dozen of them are veterans of the Vietnam War, Korean War, Operation Desert Storm, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Cold War.
“Who is a veteran? Basically, it’s somebody who served in the armed forces …” Steve Walz said. “You do not have to serve in combat to earn this distinction ... you just have to serve our country.”
Walz, 71, a Vietnam War veteran, reminisced about the shared experiences of servicemen and women: enduring tests of physical fitness and mental toughness; learning to march and to salute; and coexisting with scores of strangers-turned-roommates.
“Slowly, though, we started to become soldiers and work as one cohesive unit,” he said.
Walz paid respect to all veterans, regardless of gender, race, or religion; regardless of age, tour of duty, or combat experience.
“I’m not a hero. I went and did a job. … I found out who I was and what I was capable of,” he said. “They say that [those who served during] World War II is the Greatest Generation, but all those who have served since, especially in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, are pretty darn good, too.”
Timmer, who emceed the ceremony, asked the veterans in attendance to stand; no veterans of World War I or World War II were present, but five veterans of the Cold War, five veterans of the Vietnam War, one veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq stood for applause.
“We not only remember those who served and are still living, but those who have passed on,” he said.
Members of the Sycamore American Legion and Sycamore VFW posts, who were outside on the courthouse lawn, performed a gun salute; a bugler then played “Taps.”
Tammy Anderson, who served seven years in the Air Force preceding and during the Gulf War, said Veterans Day is “a way to remember and respect all veterans.”
Anderson, who now is the superintendent of the DeKalb County Veterans Assistance Commission, at first stayed away from government service after she got out of the military.
“But I wanted to do something that meant something,” she said. “I always say the two jobs I’m most proud of are my service and [my job with the Veterans Assistance Commission].”