McLouth celebrates freedom by honoring those who serve
It was a smaller crowd than they were used to, but the "Celebrating Freedom" ceremony in McLouth may have had its best crowd in its seven-year history.
"More people got up to speak than we usually have," said Dorothy Moore, this year's organizer. "We had some very good food for thought; this was our best one."
Around 35 people from McLouth and the surrounding areas attended the event Saturday in the basement of McLouth Church of the Nazarene. The annual event typically is staged on Sundays, but for scheduling reasons, it had to be moved to Saturday this year. It's the town's way of honoring the men and women who put their lives on the line to help others, such as police and firefighters locally and military officers who are overseas.
"Those boys and those girls are over there for us, and they are protecting us every day," Moore said.
Moore's grandson, Justin Root, finished his first tour in Iraq in the U.S. Marine Corps this March. Meanwhile, Moore's daughter is in the Missouri National Guard. She was deployed to Texas for a year.
In between audience renditions of several patriotic songs, such as, "My Country 'Tis of Thee," and "America the Beautiful," people approached the main microphone and spoke about their loved ones who are serving overseas. Some shared tidbits of history. Others recited poems they found pertinent for the night.
John Tillisch, volunteer firefighter, fought back tears and took several pauses as he read through "Your Flag," a poem he found in a newspaper column.
"God, family and country are the main parts of our existence, and that's what I believe," Tillisch said.
The evening wasn't all somber. The Smelser sisters, Nancy and Cathrine, lightened up the mood by performing a sketch involving Nancy's famous church-going character Sister Sadie.
Organizers didn't want a passive ceremony to thank the troops; they wanted everyone to get involved. So, on everyone's table were postcards that would be sent to Iraq and given to soldiers, such as Army chaplain John Potter.
Next year, Moore hopes for a bigger crowd, but she said she would like to keep the same feeling of this year's event.