SYCAMORE – Peter Johnson had read about war and Adolf Hitler in the years leading up to his enlistment in the U.S. Army.
But Johnson, a World War II veteran and former principal of Sycamore High School, said he didn’t realize what he would be getting into. Nobody does.
“You don’t know what war is until you really go,” said the 89-year-old Johnson.
Johnson was one of the military veterans and community members who went to Friday’s Veterans Day observance at the Sycamore High School.
Students, teachers and veterans watched the flag be lowered to half-staff as two students played taps on the bugle and three students sang the national anthem. The ceremony was followed by ceremonial cannon fire provided by Alpha Battery, 2-122 Field Artillery, based out of the Sycamore Armory.
Brianna Hooker, an SHS senior, had been at the high school since 5:30 a.m. During the flag ceremony and the subsequent parade through the school hallways, Hooker was taking pictures for the photo club.
Both her parents and some of her grandparents were in the U.S. military, and Hooker said she is thinking about joining Army ROTC.
“I think it’s a great way to educate the students about Veterans Day and Armistice Day,” Hooker said about the high school’s annual observance.
Hooker hopes to get into combat photography, which she said is a hard field to enter.
State Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley, attended the observance to honor “those who sacrificed for our freedoms that we exercised Tuesday.” He said many of the high school’s alumni have served their country with distinction.
Navy veteran Larry Forsberg, 64, said the annual event allows older veterans to connect with young people about the service and honoring those who make that choice. Forsberg served in Vietnam in the Navy’s Mobile Riverine Force.
“We volunteered to serve,” Forsberg said. “And when you came home, the people didn’t like you and in fact hated you because you served in Vietnam.”
Forsberg was the observance’s master of ceremonies, but he said the event would not have happened if it wasn’t for observance organizer Jerry Pelan and high school Principal Tim Carlson.