EVANSTON — As the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” played over the loudspeaker, three Boy Scouts from Troop 357, sponsored by the local Masonic Lodge, carried the colors for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 6. The flag ceremony and a special speaker are part of the annual Cowboy Days event every Labor Day weekend.
Following the placing of the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance, Clarissa Cole introduced this year’s speaker, Air Force veteran and Evanston High School teacher Colin Wilson.
“I joined the Air Force right out of high school and was stationed in south Florida until I was sent to Turkey for the skirmish on the Gulf,” Wilson said. “Our mission was to help escort thousands of Kurdish refugees out of Iraq into Turkey. The Army escorted them and we flew over them to provide protection. Soon after, I was involved in Desert Shield and then Desert Storm.”
Wilson gave the definition of a veteran as someone who writes a blank check to their country, which often includes the price of giving their life. He explained how boot camp is designed to break a person down mentally so they can rebuild that person in the way they want them to be. Wilson said the military boot camp makes a person’s life difficult but when it is over the person is different, stronger and ready to serve.
“I had a wrestling coach in high school who was a Vietnam veteran and he constantly said, ‘Don’t ever give up — you can lose a match every time but if I see you give up, I will end you.’ He was a great coach and I still remain in contact with him. He dedicates something annually on Facebook to all those veterans he served with in Vietnam. He is an outstanding individual.”
Wilson said he likes to give his students the same message: Don’t ever give up. He said he can teach students how veterans fought for every individual’s right to choose and stand up for what they believe, even if others don’t agree.
“Soldiers have been fighting for these same rights for many, many years,” Wilson said. “Even people who are not veterans fight for the same rights of freedom, family and peace.”
The ceremony ended with refreshments for all and the Boy Scouts retiring the flag.