The community of Girard turned out to welcome one of their own back to town and to celebrate the service of many from the community.

John N. Kotzman, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. who currently is an assistant professor at the School of Advanced Leadership and Tactics at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., also is a 1985 graduate of Girard High School.

Kotzman shared the story of the past 28 years, including his time in the ROTC at Pittsburg State University, service in a number of places, the opportunity to meet his wife, Christine, and the work he has done since retiring.

"I was having too much fun," he said at each interval. "That, Girard, is pretty much the story of me."

However, Kotzman said veterans past and present have sacrificed to keep the United States of America safe, including through the current war that began on Sept. 11, 2001.

"After 12 years, the war goes on," Kotzman said, adding that it has not returned to American soil since. "We are safer than we were Sept. 11, 2001."

He said Americans remain a free people determined to protect their liberty, and that many great Americans have served, bringing with it a particular type of sacrifice for both themselves and their families.

"Everyone who wears a military uniform is part of a long, unbroken line of honor," Kotzman said, adding that Americans need to honor veterans, care for the injured and remember those who have died. "Our world is a much better place because of the power and influence and the values of the United States."

Kotzman’s son, Jake, then read a poem celebrating the American Heritage.

That heritage also includes the legacy of men and women willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Richard "Ricky" A. Bennett, was a 1999 graduate of Girard High School and gave his life in service on May 27, 2007.

Girard VFW Post 7479 Commander Chuck Hoagland and Quartermaster Gene Leigh presented a Gold Star Flag to his parents, Larry and Marilyn Bennett and sister Angela Barrett.

The ceremony also included the presentation of colors, pledge of allegiance, "National Anthem," history of Armistice Day, poems, "Marches of the Armed Forces arr. by Michael Sweeney by the GHS band, and a moment of silence.