Pekin honors hometown veterans
Pekin social studies teacher Tim Hadley introduced Pekin graduate and United States Army Colonel Chris Downey, retired, as the speaker for the Veteran’s Day program in the high school gym Friday morning.
More than 35 veterans in attendance were recognized for their service to their country.
Downey grew up in Richland, next-door neighbor to Adrian Bottorff, a veteran of World War I. After a few opening remarks, Downey read a letter he recently penned to Bottorff who died in 1983.
What follows is an excerpt from that letter:
“We last met in this world in your hospital room. I was a senior at West Point with an army officer’s career ahead of me. You seemed to have all the time in the world for me-just like you did when I was four years old and your next-door neighbor. The army put you on a Harley Davidson to deliver messages to and from the front lines in the war that was to end all wars. You must have wondered in your long life why you came home and others did not.
I am thankful you were spared to come back and spend time with me in the sunshine and autumn leaves under that maple tree between my house and yours.
My wife and I have four children, all of whom are now serving in the Army. Last Monday I took Noah, our youngest to Des Moines to enlist. His middle name is Noah; his first name is Adrian, after you.
Last week a storm hit the east coast. You would be proud to know that the soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier never ceased walking their post.
Now I hope that one day, we’ll sit on a bench together again with our corncob pipes and just talk.”
After Col Downey’s remarks, Staff Sgt. Josh Hildebrand, a 1996 graduate of Pekin, read his poem, “The Final Inspection,” which has gone viral. Hildebrand said he wrote it when he was in basic training and never dreamed it would attract the attention it has or that it would be in the Library of Congress and on the tombstone of soldiers.
The Pekin chorus sang the National Anthem and America the Beautiful and the American Legion Post 0504 from Richland carried the colors. Pekin student J.D. Hollingsworth played taps to end the program.