Fairfield to honor veterans Friday
“It’s an honor and a privilege to do this — in the past, I sat in the audience and listened to four star generals and others speak, so I am so very humbled by this,” said former U.S. Marine and Jefferson County Sheriff Gregg Morton, about being slated to speak at this year’s Veterans Day program in Fairfield.
Retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class and program organizer James T. Salts is pleased with Morton’s selection as the guest speaker.
“He’s a strong supporter of veterans, even being a past exalted ruler for the Elks Lodge No. 1192 here in Fairfield,” Salts said. “The Elks, their motto is if veterans are around, they will not forget them. [Morton] has [qualities] of a true Marine. His appearance is always top notch, and he conducts himself in a professional manner.”
Fairfield’s Veterans Day program kicks off at 10 a.m. Friday inside the Fairfield High School Auditorium. Doors open to the public at 9 a.m. Front row seating is reserved for veterans and their families. FHS students will be seated at 9:45 a.m. Salts is this year’s master of ceremonies, and he will deliver the welcome address and the Pledge of Allegiance.
During his speech, Morton intends to expound on several topics.
“I plan to talk about what Veterans Day really means to veterans and what it’s all about,” Morton said. “I will also talk about the numerous veterans programs offered by the Elks lodge.”
Morton joined the U.S. Marine Corps on the delayed entry program while he was a senior at FHS. Immediately after graduation in 1982, he attended Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina, after which he attended Marine Corps Infantry Training School at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Morton was transferred to Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., from November 1982 through February 1983. Later that month, he was transferred to the Naval Support Facility in Thurmont, Maryland, where he was assigned to the Marine Barracks 8th & I to guard Camp David.
Camp David serves as the country retreat for U.S. presidents and is also where various summits are held, such as the 2000 summit between President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat.
Marines from 8th & I have guarded the retreat since it opened during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Morton served there until July of 1986 when he ended his active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps.
Morton joined the Greenbelt, Maryland, fire department in July of 1983 and he remained there until July of 1986 when he joined the Greenbelt Police Department. He joined the Fairfield Police Department in July of 1990, less than one year after he returned to Fairfield in October of 1989.
He remained with the police department for seven years. He then joined the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Morton achieved the ranks of sergeant and chief deputy prior to is election as sheriff in 2012.
Morton is married to Luann, and they had two sons Nicolas and the late Patrick, who passed away in 2009.
Nicolas Morton graduated from Iowa State University in 2014 and he is currently on assignment with the Peace Corps in Peru.
In addition to Morton, FHS senior Anuja Pharasi will share her experience of attending the 2016 Girls State Program at Iowa State University as well as her attendance at Girls Nation in Washington, D.C.
FHS Senior Michael Fritz attended Boys State at Camp Dodge in Grimes, and will expound on his experiences there.
The American Legion sponsors Girls and Boys State. The American Legion Auxiliary focuses on instilling leadership and interpersonal skills in secondary students.
Patriotic music will be presented by the FHS choral group and band conducted by Zach Reiter and Jim Edgeton respectively.
Salts will render closing remarks, and the Rev. Joseph Phipps, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, will give the invocation and benediction.
Since 1998, the Veterans Day program has been held in the FHS Auditorium to encourage high school student participation in the program.
Weather permitting, The Avenue of Flags is scheduled for Central Park in Fairfield Friday, and volunteers are needed to help post more than 500 flags.
Those interested in volunteering should arrive at 6:45 a.m. at Central Park and then again between 3-4 p.m. to take them down. Volunteers will be served at free breakfast at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2271 following the flag postings.
The Elks Lodge 1192 is sponsoring a Veterans Soup and Salad Bar for all veterans to thank them for their service, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday. Free will donations will be accepted for guests and nonveterans. Reservations are appreciated, but not required.
For more information about the soup and salad bar, contact the Elks lodge at 472-2171 or Jim Kennedy at 472-2444.
At 9 a.m. Friday, Pekin Community School District will host a Veterans Day Assembly in the high school gymnasium.
The Cardinal Community School District is also hosting a Veterans Day Assembly at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the high school gymnasium.
At 10:15 a.m. Thursday, the Van Buren High School’s public speaking class is hosting an assembly to thank all veterans for their service. The assembly will be held in the high school gymnasium.