DECATUR — Dozens of local military veterans, whose collective service spans from World War II to the 2010s, were honored by the Metropolitan Decatur Rotary Club on Friday in anticipation of Veteran's Day.
The luncheon at the Decatur Club has become an annual tradition, according to organizers.
Tony Brewster, a veteran who served in the Marines during the 1990s, gave the keynote speech. Part of his message encouraged people in communities everywhere to reach out to a veteran this weekend.
"Sit down, get to know them. Tell them 'Thank you,' and take the time to hear their story," Brewster said.
What has become a ritual for the Rotary Club on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day comes from Dick Cain, an army veteran and longtime Decatur resident.
Cain, who says he can recite poetry for the duration of a drive from Decatur to St. Louis, performed "In Flanders Fields" by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae.
The poem from 1915 describes a moment in the author's experience in Belgium during World War I, when he visited the grave of his fallen friend.
"I always wondered (after) my uncle came home in a flag-draped casket, what it would've been like had he lived —with (a) wife and children that he never had the opportunity to have. This poem pretty well says that," Cain said.
Irwin Soliday said he was probably the oldest person at the lunch Friday, and in approaching his 100th birthday in February, he's probably right.
Soliday said he's still a member of the veteran's association of the army division he served with in the South Pacific during World War II.
"There's few of us living now," Soliday said. "We had a unit of about 16,000 after the war that formed the association. Today, it's under 100. But I still belong to it."
"I see these other veterans now, they come in wars after me. There was one other World War II veteran I think I saw here," Soliday said. "We're getting pretty scarce."