Photo exhibit a reminder of Kansans? sacrifice

The exhibit, ?Remembering Our Fallen,? representing Kansas soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghani?stan, was in Hillsboro for the first time Nov. 8-14 at American Legion Post 366.

Randy Frank, of Hillsboro, a veteran with the 4th District American Legion, spoke to hundreds of students and community members about the display.

?Veterans are those who serve to protect us, to give us rights established in the Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution,? he said.

?Most Americans across the country profess they love veterans and generally say it out loud on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. But we can?t forget they are protecting us 365 days a year.?

Speaking to a group of Hillsboro eighth-grade students Thursday, Frank talked about Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, who was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.

This medal, Frank said, is the highest awarded by Congress for bravery and going beyond the call of duty.

?(Romesha) received the medal because of what happened in Afghanistan,? he said. ?His troops were invaded by over 300 terrorists?the fighting went on for a very long time, but when it was done, the Americans came out victorious.?

After receiving the award, Romesha said he felt happy because the troops were able to do what they were trained for.

But, Frank said, Romesha also was sad because of the soldiers who had died.

With less than 1 percent of the country?s 320 million people serving on active military duty, Frank said another group also should be remembered.

?We should never forget the Gold Star families who have lost a service member during war,? Frank said.

Present at the event was a Gold Star mother, Frank?s wife, Keeley, who lost her only child, Kevin Gilbertson, Aug. 31, 2007, from wounds he received when insurgents attacked his unit during combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq.

?We wanted to recognize the mothers here in this area,? Keeley Frank said. ?A lot of them don?t get the recognition that they should and we don?t want them to be forgotten either.

?I think I am the only Gold Star mom in Hillsboro. I know there are some in surrounding counties.?

Randy Frank said Gold Star families can include step-parents, mothers, fathers, siblings and more.

He pointed to a table of veterans, noting that this person was born in Ark City, another in Peabody and another in Wellington.

?My son was born in Iowa,? Keeley Frank said.

Randy Frank said when he was American Legion commander in Iowa, they had an exhibit there.

?I have felt the change in attitudes and some families have been able to come full circle,? he said.

The exhibit was created by Bill and Evonne Williams of Patriotic Productions in Omaha, Neb., and was sponsored by Bellevue University in Nebraska, Randy Frank said.

Students from Hillsboro received a small American flag, which Keeley Frank said she hopes will remind them of the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect their freedoms.

Since March, the Kansas exhibit has traveled to Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City, Gardner, Newton, Wellington, Onaga, El Dorado, Fort Leavenworth, Sabetha, Hays and Lawrence.

The exhibit?s final stop this year is at the American Legion Post in Emporia.

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