The first phase of Grain Valley’s permanent thank-you to America’s veterans is in place.

“This tribute is dedicated to all past, current and future members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America,” said Norm Combs, a veteran of many years of service in the Navy and president of the Pathways of Honor.

He spoke at a ceremony under blue skies Tuesday afternoon at Butterfly Trail Park.

Mike Switzer, also a veteran, has spent years putting this effort together and pointed out that much remains to be done.

“We’ve had a lot of folks step forward to help us,” he said.

The first phase includes a single flagpole and commemorative bricks listing individual veterans. The eventual plan is for six flagpoles honoring the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine.

• Video of Grain Valley High School's band at the flag-raising.

Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross, an Army infantryman in Vietnam whose unit earned the Valorous Unit Award at the Battle of Widows Village during the Tet Offensive in 1968, said he lost two close friends in the war.

“They never had the opportunity to become husbands, fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers like me,” he said.

Ross, who has served as the the chair of the Missouri Veterans Commission, also reminded those at Tuesday’s ceremony that veterans of that war were not welcomed home. That should never happen again, he said, calling on the country to “be a grateful nation and people.”

City Administrator Ryan Hunt talked of his grandfather, a Marine in World War II, someone he greatly looked up to but also someone of whom he later came to wish he’d asked more questions.

“It’s made me stop and think: Do I appreciate the veterans in my life?” he said.

The answer for everyone, Hunt said, should be to commit to serving those who have served their country, and he noted that 43,000 veterans live in Jackson County – 30 percent of the disabled and 8 percent of them in poverty.

The Pathways of Honor is still taking donations for the next phases of work.

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