By GARRETT NEESE and KURT HAUGLIE
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Snow speaks during the 16th annual Veterans Day dinner at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Calumet Township sponsored by the American Legion Post 61 and the Copper Country Elks Lodge 404.
HOUGHTON - The Copper Country Veterans Association held its annual ceremony at Veterans Park in Houghton Sunday honoring those who have served.
Jim Pintar of the CCVA welcomed the crowd of about 20 people who stood on the hillside.
"Our veterans are part of an unbroken chain of men and women who have served our country with honor and distinction," he said. "As we honor our veterans with ceremonies on this day, let our actions strengthen the bond between a nation and her warriors."
Guest speaker Cpl. Roy Thomas, a Marine Corps League member who received a Purple Heart serving in Iraq, said they're thinking about missing and fallen comrades.
"Our whole nation honors every patriot who placed duty and country before their own lives," he said. "They gave us every day that we live in freedom. The security of America depends upon our active leadership in the world to oppose emerging threats and spread freedom that leads to the peace we all want. And that leadership ultimately depends on the commitment and character of the Armed Forces."
The joy of freedom can't be celebrated without remembering the price paid for it, Thomas said.
"We stagger at the eternal debt we owe to the untold number of American veterans who choose to set aside their personal ambitions and dreams to assure the well-being of our great nation," he said. "We the living are the beneficiaries of those who made tremendous sacrifices for the advancement and surety of our liberty."
For retired Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Snow, Veterans Day is not only about recognizing the current members of the United States military, but it's also about remembering those who served in the past, and those who died while serving.
Snow, a 1975 Calumet High School graduate, was the main speaker Sunday during the annual Veterans Day dinner at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Calumet Township sponsored by the American Legion Post 61 and the Copper Country Elks Lodge 404.
Joe Finch, commander of the American Legion Post 61, said this was the 16th year for the dinner, and its intention is to provide speakers who are either local or have a connection to the Copper Country.
There were about 230 people attending the dinner, Finch said, which was more than has been typical.
"This is getting to be a bigger and bigger event," he said.
Before Snow spoke, Kari Oja, CHS Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadet, gave homage to current and past veterans, and retired USAF Lt. Col. Jack Fear, past commander of the former 655th Radar Station on Mount Horace Greeley in Keweenaw County, spoke about serving at the radar station.
During his introduction of Snow, Finch acknowledged all of his training, awards and postings, and said he had five deployments in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Snow, who retired from the Air Force in April, began his remarks by recognizing those who served at the radar station.
"Thanks for everything you did for us to help win the Cold War," he said.
Snow said for him, Veterans Day is about patriotism, and patriotism is about remembering those who served without expectation of reward.
Speaking to the current and past members of the military in the audience, Snow said he understands the bonds they have with those they served with who are elsewhere or deceased.
"You're probably all thinking about them now," he said.
Snow said his sense of patriotism began when he was a child when his father would have Snow and his siblings put their hands on their hearts and recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the end of television broadcast days as the American flag was displayed.
"It was instilled in me at an early age by a quiet man," he said.
Snow said after 21 years of service, he had his first experience in combat when he was posted to Bosnia during the civil war there. He later served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
On a personal level, Snow said Veterans Day is especially important to him because his nephew, Jesse Snow, died as a result of injuries he sustained in Afghanistan in an effort to save fellow soldiers. During a rocket-propelled grenade attack, Jesse Snow provided first aid to wounded soldiers and retrieved ammunition when it was running low before being fatally wounded himself.
After Snow's remarks, Jesse Snow was given a posthumous Medal of Valor from the Copper Country Elks Lodge 404, and Tom Primeau, exalted ruler of the lodge, said it's the highest honor the Elks give. Receiving the medal were Joseph Snow and his brothers, Tom and Tim.
In finishing his remarks, Snow said he will always remember those who served in the military.
"Veterans, we are forever in your debt," he said. "There is no way we can ever repay you."