Regulars at the American Heroes Café at Festival Foods in Kenosha celebrated Veterans Day a day early on Friday, with a full breakfast and a 248th birthday celebration.
The birthday party — featuring a cake and a singing of “Happy Birthday” — was for the U.S. Marine Corps, which was founded Nov. 10, 1775.
The breakfast spread — replete with eggs, sausage, potatoes, biscuits and doughnuts — was a donation to the weekly veterans’ get-together, courtesy of local businessman Bob Margetson.
Founded in 2011, the Heroes Café gathers from 8 to 11 a.m. each Friday in the community room at Festival Foods, 3207 80th St. A similar gathering is held at the same time each Wednesday at the Festival Foods in Somers, at 6000 31st St.
The events are free and open to all veterans, and typically include coffee and doughnuts, announcements, and a brief singalong of the Star-Spangled Banner and other military songs. Landmark birthdays for veterans, some turning 100 or more, are also celebrated regularly.
Amid the festivities Friday, as veterans of all ages gathered to celebrate and reminisce, Heroes Café volunteer coordinator Erin Riley gave her thanks to the group.
“I personally just want to say to you veterans, who are my friends, when I think of you — which is often — I have two powerful thoughts or words,” Riley said. “It is ‘gratitude’ and ‘respect.’ I’m keeping it short because that says it all, in my mind.”
Riley concluded her brief remarks with the reading of a letter from a student, whose full name was unknown, to a veteran who had traveled on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.:
The need arose, and you answered. Hell’s gates had been opened, and for them to be closed, a sacrifice was needed. Thank you for sacrificing yourself, your younger years, your time with family, your innocence, and if it had to come to that, your life.
I am a junior in high school and I thank you for your service. I am part of a generation that has forgotten who we come from. It doesn’t understand how lucky it is to not need to fight. The wars fought have been placed as distant history that has no importance today, forgetting the fact that you are still here.
You served and gave everything for a country that many in it scoff at you for protecting them. I pray that you feel the respect you deserve and the admiration you inspire from those you served.
I thank you for believing in the great American experiment enough to fight for it, to lay down your life for it. Your bravery sends chills down my spine and puts tears in my eyes.
I look at the flag and think back to the sacrifice of those who fought. If the gates of Hell should open once more, if the need arises again, I and others who have felt the bravery of those who fought, will fight, and we will sacrifice.