Colon made his comments during the 23rd annual Veterans Day Program held Friday at Franklin High School.
Nearly two dozen veterans from different eras attended the special program with Franklin High School band and choir students who also sang and/or performed several military and patriotic musical selections, including the “Marches of the Armed Forces.” Students also read patriotic poems and stories about the holiday. The veterans were also treated to a small reception in the media center.
Colon reminded students that the armed forces protect their freedoms everyday, saying it’s important that students consider joining the military because “if we don’t have people stepping up, we’ll be in a bad place.
“It’s an honor to be asked to speak here today to honor those who came before me,” he said.
He also said more than a million service members have died in the line of duty protecting the nation. Colon said that total includes Franklin High School graduates who served. He said there were three FHS deaths in World War I; 42 in World War II; one in Korea; eight in Vietnam; and one in the Global War on Terror.
Colon noted that three of his predecessor police chiefs, Robert Rockwood, Gordon Ellis and Russell Whitman, were military veterans. Rockwood served in the Marines, Ellis served in the Army, and Whitman served in the Coast Guard. Prior to becoming Franklin’s police chief, Colon was a member of the Riverside Police Department and rose from patrol officer to the rank of major when he commanded the criminal investigations division. In the Army, he rose to the rank of sergeant and served as patrol officer and an investigator.
During the event, two Franklin High School grads and former band members who served in the military participated in musical performances. Retired Army Maj. Patrick Dugan, who also served in the Marines, Navy and Ohio National Guard, served as a conductor for the school band performing the Marches of the Armed Forces, and Larry Pursley, a Marine who served in Vietnam, returned to play the sousaphone.
Pursley, a 1966 FHS grad, said he believes “every boy and girl should spend two to four years in the military. I think it would be good for everyone.” He said he had the opportunity to take college classes during his time in the Marines.
Dugan, a 1972 FHS grad, said Veterans Day ceremonies are also “a way to remember those who served before us and to honor their service.”
Luis Alvarado served in the Army during the Vietnam War and worked in supply. A native of Puerto Rico, the Franklin resident and Purple Heart recipient said he enjoys coming to the Veterans Day events, adding “I feel very proud when I talk about my job over there. I had a lot of friends who died in the line of duty and I think about them on Veterans Day.”
FHS Principal Michael Voynovich said he loves having veterans come in and having the students involved in preparing the program and seeing it.
“It’s a great visual for the students to see and it’s important to see the value of recognizing service members who enable us to do the things we do at school, in the community and the country,” he said.
One longtime Franklin veteran, former mayor Jim Mears, died earlier this year. Mears, a local business owner, FHS graduate and Army veteran, was involved in many veterans programs in the community for decades. His widow, Susie Mears, said she thought the program was very nice and that her late husband “would have loved it.”