The 5th Annual Honors Luncheon was held this afternoon at the Halls of St. George in Schererville to commemorate veterans, provide a space for them to catch up, and reconnect with others after many years of lost ties.
Kathleen Kazmierczak, Chairperson of NWI Veterans Action Council and founder of the honorary luncheon, spoke about why they host every year.
“We do this to honor veterans for their service. This is something they enjoy doing because a lot of them have said they haven’t seen some of these guys in so many years,” Kazmierczak said.
The very first event the NWI Veterans Action Council held saw about 200 veterans in attendance. Throughout the last five years, the event has reached to over 750 veterans. Their guests range from World War II veterans, all the way through Korean, Vietnam, the wars in the Middle-East, and active military veterans.
Many students from Lake Central High School attended the luncheon which provided an opportunity for veterans to share their experiences and spread their everlasting love of their country for generations.
“This is the opportunity for them to hear living history, something you cannot find in books. For students to sit at the tables with the veterans is a chance for them to hear their stories, go back to their school, and share the word,” Kazmierczak said.
Free customizable dog tags were offered to veterans as they entered the luncheon. Booths provided information and possible opportunities focused on veterans and active servers, such as Honor Flight Chicago, Habitat for Humanity, and Patriots Training Service Dogs. Colleen Sargent of the nonprofit Patriots Training Service Dogs offers service training for dogs at their two Northwest Indiana locations. This type of training can take up to two years and is no cost to veterans. For those who suffer from PTSD, service dogs can provide calming effects and a sense of security. Sargent spoke about other services that they provide.
“With a dog, people find comfort. Sometimes people forget to take their meds, but with a service dog, they are trained to paw and jump until their owner takes them,” Sargent said.
Frank J. Mrvan, North Township Trustee, was one of the featured speakers at the luncheon and spoke about how important it is to give back to the veterans who committed their lives to our freedom.
“Veterans unite us. It’s those sacrifices in war that men and women have made for us, that we are given those freedoms. As an elected official it is my duty to make sure that we serve you, and recognize you,” Mrvan said. “We are here today to talk about your service and your sacrifice.”
Jim Biesen, a Vietnam War veteran, spoke about the heart of the event.
“I came here with two friends, and we all ended up at different tables,” said Biesen. “I think anything anyone can do to serve all the men and women who served in the wars and gave up their lives for that time period is really amazing.”
Biesen noted that his mother, Mary Lou Kieswetter, founder of the National Council for the Encouragement of Patriotism, was one of the main contributors for development of the Highway of Flags Servicemen’s Memorial in Highland that honors veterans.
“The luncheon started with only 200 people, and now we have this,” Jane Dudley, Marketing Chair of the NWI Veterans Action Council, said. “It’s amazing; Kathy Kazmierczak has overwhelmed us with what she has been able to do.”
The 5th Annual Honors Luncheon proved to be a success, as members in attendance have continued to skyrocket year after year. Veterans from Northwest Indiana and Chicago gathered together to celebrate and honor the service they provided their country because they live through the heart of patriotism together. The luncheon provides a space of comfort and celebration for generations to come. If you are interested in the NWI Veterans Action Council, and the work that they do, visit http://www.nwiveterans.com/.