Families of veterans should also be recognized on Veterans Day, since they, too, make sacrifices, said Lonnie Ellis, post commander of the American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90, as he addressed a crowd attending a Veterans Day program Wednesday at Statesboro’s Emma Kelly Theater.
Ellis’ keynote speech was the highlight of the program, but in a surprise move, Dan Foglio, senior vice commander of the American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90, received a first-time honor from the Archibald Bulloch Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Regent Martha Wells presented Foglio, who organizes the annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations, with the DAR Americanism Medal.
"This medal is awarded to an adult man or woman who has been a naturalized United States citizen for at least five years and has fulfilled the required qualifications following naturalization,” Wells said, quoting from the 2014 DAR handbook.
“DAR Americanism Medal recipients must have shown outstanding qualities of leadership, trustworthiness, service and patriotism. They must have actively assisted other immigrants to become American citizens or displayed outstanding ability in community affairs and promoting patriotism.”
Foglio is very involved in the community, serving as an active Statesboro Kiwanis Club member, a Mason, a Red Cross volunteer and with the American Legion, she said.
Born in France and adopted by an Italian couple, Foglio moved to New York as a child and later to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After serving in the United States Army for six years, he came home to his family and worked as a warehouseman. He and his wife Martha moved to her hometown, Statesboro, in 1998.
“He is French by birth, Italian by adoption and American by choice,” Ms. Foglio said after the ceremony Wednesday. One of Foglio’s favorite phrases, which he uses in his cell phone voicemail greeting, is “I’m not from the South, but I got here as fast as I could.”
Foglio showed surprise and emotion as he accepted the award, given for the first time Wednesday by the local DAR chapter.
“I never expected this,” he said. “Thank you very much.”
Veterans’ families deserve recognition
As he opened his speech, Ellis bemoaned the fact that local school-age children and many younger adults were not in attendance at the Veterans Day program.
He is “dismayed” by those who do not realize the sacrifices not only veterans, but their families and loved ones make to keep our country safe; by those who “are opposed to veterans and who rant and rave, who say we don’t need to be heard.”
Ellis is a two-time war veteran, a retired Marine who also served a stint in the United States Army. He served in the Marine Corps from 1989 until 1993 and served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Stationed in North Carolina, he served with the 8th Marines and was deployed for the 1990-91 action in which a United States-led coalition retook Kuwait after it was invaded by Iraqi forces under President Saddam Hussein.
After leaving the Marine Corps, Ellis moved to Illinois and joined the American Legion there more than 20 years ago. He was commander of Post 463 in Roanoke, Illinois, for three years, and also served as a district commander. After 15 years as a civilian, Ellis joined the U.S. Army in 2008 at age 39. He then deployed to Iraq from December 2009 until December 2010 with the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Stewart. First at Forward Operating Base Falcon near Baghdad, he was detached to Joint Security Station Doura.
He has several children and grandchildren, and knows firsthand what sacrifices his loved ones made while he was at war. During his speech, he became emotional as he recited “Daddy, Don’t Go,” one of his poems, from a published book “War and Peace and Poetry,” about his daughter’s plea for him “not to go.”
He also recited “The Journey,” another selection from his book, about a soldier’s nightly foray in his dreams to his loved ones — an emotional journey he said many soldiers make in their minds as they fight away from home. The book of poetry is filled with similar selections that deal with the emotions a soldier and his family encounter during war.
He reminded the crowd that while some may focus on the plight of dwindling veterans’ services and the performance of today’s government leaders, the real reason for Veterans Day is to honor and thank veterans and their families for what being involved in war and military service has cost them.
“War is not a game,” he said.
Ellis left the Army as a sergeant in 2013 and returned to Statesboro. Now, in addition to serving as Post 90 commander, he is the American Legion’s Georgia 1st District junior vice commander. He is also a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Others involved in Wednesday’s observance include Post 90 Chaplain Charles Williams, Adjutant Bob Marsh, Judge Joe Neville, Bulloch County Probate Judge Lee DeLoach and several other veterans, plus representatives of the Averitt Center, the Statesboro Kiwanis Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Wednesday’s Veterans Day program was sponsored by Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home, Statesboro’s Averitt Center for the Arts, Chik-Fil-A, the American Legion and the Bulloch County Historical Society. A musical prelude to the program was provided by the Georgia Southern University Student Brass Quintet, directed by Dr. Stephen Fury.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.