All veterans honored with programs
Local post remembers fallen marine

Wanda English Burnett


“We’ve never singled out just one veteran to honor on Veterans Day before,” began Sugo Castner of the Versailles American Legion as they conducted a special service at the Cliff Hill Cemetery for fallen comrade Cpl John Bishop, on Veterans Day.

“But, he singled himself out by giving his all and we felt this was appropriate,” Castner continued.
It was a bitter sweet day for Versailles residents as they remembered not only all veterans, but one in particular, Cpl. Bishop, who was killed in Afghanistan on September 8, 2010.

“He was the only active member in the history of the Post who was killed in action,” Castner told The Versailles Republican. Cpl. Bishop was a seven year member of the Versailles American Legion Post when he lost his life.
Legionnaires started early on November 11 with a breakfast at the South Ripley High School at 8 a.m.

Indiana Patriot Guard (INPG) members lined one end of the gymnasium, each holding a large American flag. These men and women are volunteers who are willing to be the buffer between veteran’s families and any military protestors. They are an extension of patriotism that numbers in the thousands to offer moral support in the veteran’s or veteran’s family time of need.

Active duty soldiers came up to INPG members and thanked them for what they do for them. One guard member said it was humbling to think the military members were thanking them, when they (the INPG) were actually thanking the military with their service.

Veterans were escorted into the gymnasium at South Ripley High School by members of the Social Studies Club as the band played service songs.

Elementary school principal Mark Collier introduced each veteran with their service ranging from World War II veterans to today’s action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Versailles American Legion Color Guard presented colors with seniors Sam Stratton, Meredith Knollman and sixth grade student council president Mackenzie Black leading the Pledge.

The morning included patriotic music by a senior ensemble, high school and junior high choirs, the Young Confederates under the direction of Patsy Holdsworth, and Amazing Grace was performed on the bagpipe by Kevin Konetzka. A video tribute was given compliments of Cody King and Sam Stratton.

Speakers included Sandy Becker, commander of the Versailles American Legion, Major Charles Nesloney, Patriot Academy at MUTC and Larry Sutherlin, retired government teacher.

Retired Marine Cpl. Becker explained what a veteran is, what they do and why.

He told the convocation that the veterans endure sweltering heat, fox holes in the mud, constant blowing sand, and frostbite to “protect the freedoms we all enjoy.”

Major Nesloney, who has served two Iraqi Freedom Tours, talked about the first and only military high school, located just one county over. (Jennings County)

He said the military wanted to take a stand against the high school drop out epidemic. “The students who walk our halls are soldiers,” he noted. They are disciplined warriors who receive full time pay and benefits in exchange for their high school diploma and service to their country.

He said a veteran is someone who writes a blank check for an amount up to and including their life.

Major Nesloney’s voice broke as he said “we owe them (veterans) more gratitude than we can ever pay.”

Sutherlin told the crowd, “we wouldn’t be here in a free country without them (veterans).
He honored slain Marine Cpl. John Bishop and noted an empty chair with the American Flag and Bishop’s photo - denoting his sacrifice. It was a poignant reminder that freedom comes with a price. As the other veterans being honored that day took their chairs, only one was empty, but will never be forgotten.

The family of Bishop was in attendance at the program and were honored as they stood to thunderous applause that seemed to last for minutes.

Sutherlin said he has never been more proud of the community than when they honored Cpl. Bishop from the day his body was returned to his hometown of Versailles to the burial ceremony at the cemetery.

“Just a few years ago, he walked these same halls as you,” Sutherlin told the students. He knew the family and had taught many of Bishop’s brothers and sisters.

Versailles American Legion members ended their day with a ceremony for all veterans at the Ripley County Veterans Memorial on the courthouse lawn, Versailles.

The Osgood and Milan American Legions were also busy on Veterans Day with various programs at their respective schools.

The common theme throughout the day was “freedom isn’t free” - it comes with a price, sometimes one that is the ultimate sacrifice and takes a life.

With the new grave in front of them, the family of Cpl. John Bishop, gathered at the Cliff Hill Cemetery in Versailles on Veterans Day for a special ceremony honoring their loved one. Cpl. Bishop was killed in Afghanistan on September 8, 2010. He was the first veteran killed in the line of duty who was a member of the Versailles American Legion Post. Many Bishop family members, brothers, sisters, and his mother, stood among the Indiana Patriot Guard as they held American flags while the Post conducted a service to honor the slain marine.