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Ceremony honors veterans in Austin

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Peter Handke, a member of the Veteran Memorial committee, accompanies his mother, Norraine, to the Patriot Day program. She is wearing a U. S. Navy uniform. She was a Navy maintenance worker in World War II.

Rows of dark paver stones, trimmed with glistening granite blocks, gave the Veterans Memorial on Courthouse Square a fresh look as people gathered for a Patriot Day Program Sunday.

The 2 p.m. event marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. But it also included the re-dedication of the Veterans Memorial itself and the unveiling of a bronze eagle on the Memorial’s center pedestal and a POW-MIA plaque. The fallen were honored with prayers, dedications, a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner," salutes to the flag, a rifle salute by the American Legion Rifle Squad and the playing of taps.

With the sound system not working, Austin High School junior Taylor Osmundson sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" without amplification. The audience moved in closer and quieted to listen to her voice, clear and free of bands and speakers. It was a moment to remember.

When Norman Hecimovich, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Committee, took the microphone from Osmundson to lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance, it miraculously came to life. "Oh, now we have sound," he said, shaking his head.

Hecimovich recognized every member of the Memorial Committee: Jeff Anderson, Mike Ruzek, Bill Fuller, Everett DeYoung, Arnie Earl, Rich Prizler, Ron Hanson, Wayne Madson, Peter Handke, Wayne Huinker, Howard Nepp and himself.

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As the cloth cover at the top of the pedestal was removed, Hecimovich noted that the American eagle is the second most noted symbol of the nation next to the flag. On the presentation of the POW-MIA plaque, he said that 85,000 Americans remain on prisoner of war or missing in action status. "They are unaccounted for," he said, "leaving their loved ones without knowing what happened to them."

The granite memorial reads "POW-MIA: Dedicated to those who were imprisoned; in memory of those still missing. May we not forget their sacrifice."

Retired Army (Chaplain) Colonel Wallace Alcorn gave the opening and closing prayer. Alcorn is a remarkable example of an American veteran. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1947 on his 17th birthday and served the nation in some military category until he retired at in 1990, a span of 43 years.

"We are here to remember that terrible day," Chaplain Alcorn said of the 9/11 attack and its victims. "We pray for those they loved, but left behind."

Standing in front of the wall that carries the names of those killed in war, he said: "We pray that you would help us to live lives that are worthy of all of these."

Encouraging people to purchase more pavers to support the War Memorial committee’s fundraising effort, Hecimovich said living and deceased soldiers are honored by pavers.

The committee’s goal is to sell 600 more pavers to fund a bronze sculpture of a soldier holding a fallen comrade. Those honored with pavers do not have to be from this area.

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