By Sgt. Aaron BeroganNovember 15, 2017
BUFFALO GROVE, Ill. - The auditorium filled with silence as the audience stood up from their seats at Buffalo Grove High School on Nov. 11, 2017. The first notes of the national anthem played as hundreds watched the nation's colors marched into the room during a Veteran's Day ceremony.
Nearly 200 members of the Buffalo Grove community attended the ceremony to show their support and love for the men and women who have sworn to protect the country.
"Friends, neighbors, children, and grandchildren often think of Veteran's Day as a day off," said Jack Schmerer, Commissioner, Buffalo Grove Park District. "We need to remind them of the real reason behind this day. A day to remember the men and women who wear the uniform and protect our rights and freedoms."
To honor those being celebrated, Army Reserve Lt. Col. Priscilla Van Zanten, Transportation Officer, 85th Support Command, participated as the keynote speaker. Van Zanten preceded her remarks, on stage, by taking a step back from the microphone and raising her hand to her brow and rendered a salute.
"On behalf of a proud and grateful nation, I salute you," said Van Zanten. "Today we honor and recognize those men and women who have served past and present in our nation's military. We are part of an unbroken chain of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, active duty and Reserve, who have served this country, our country, with honor and distinction."
Van Zanten spoke of her pride to stand before her community, and represent the Army Reserve as the keynote speaker. Van Zanten talked about how the shape of the Army Reserve has changed since World War I, and the direction it is taking in today's political climate.
"America's Army Reserve is moving to a new model of operational readiness," explained Van Zanten. "(The Army Reserve) will build and sustain the most capable, combat-ready, and lethal Federal Reserve force in the history of the nation."
Van Zanten explained that for many reserve Soldiers, the days of one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer are gone. Instead the Army Reserve is growing into a combat ready force, that is ready to fight fast.
"The Army Reserve is developing forces ready to deploy into combat in zero to 90 days," said Van Zanten. "They will be trained and equipped to fight, survive, and win against current and emerging threats."
Van Zanten also addressed suicides amongst the military ranks.
"I want to leave you with a number. 22," said Van Zanten, leaving the number hanging in the air. "22 Veterans a day commit suicide. They deserve our help. For some, just talking to them might be the help that gets them through another day," Van Zanten continued. "I ask of you, don't wait for Veterans Day to talk to a vet. Seize the opportunity to say, 'Thank you for your service,' anytime you can."
Then Van Zanten turned her speech to those who support our heroes.
"We honor and remember not only those who fought," said van Zanten. "(We remember) the families and communities who played no small roll by supporting them."
After Van Zanten's speech Katherine Hedlund, a Korean War era Air Force Veteran, thanked Van Zanten face-to-face for representing the female population of the service.
"For so long women have not gotten the exposure or honors they should have received," said Hedlund. "I think seeing Priscilla step-up as the key note speaker is long overdue and a great statement that we need in today's world. We really need to build on the importance of what women (veterans) have done and the accomplishments they have achieved."
Hedlund said she was happy to be in attendance, supporting all the work our men and women in uniform have done and continue to do. At the end of the ceremony the lights went dim and Van Zanten walked out of the theater doors; her family, surrounding her, shared how proud they were to see Van Zanten representing the community in her Army uniform.