There are no small roles in the U.S. military, state Rep. Jim Schulte said Saturday.
"Every single person that answers the call -- and works and fights and puts in their effort -- is critical to the success of what makes our military the greatest in the world," Schulte said. "You need to remember that always."
Schulte, a Republican from New Bloomfield, addressed more than 60 people at Jefferson City Veterans Council's annual Veterans Day Program held at Roscoe Enloe American Legion Post 5.
Schulte said he has heard veterans say they served, but their small roles had little effect. Or that they served in peacetime and didn't do much.
Every one of them is just as important as any other veteran, he argued, helping maintain the strongest military in the world.
"All of you that served, all of you that stood up when you were called to support this country -- I applaud you," Schulte said.
He also served. He was in the U.S. Army National Guard for 41 years, completed two combat tours in Afghanistan and retired as the state command sergeant major.
He received the Combat Infantry Badge, Legion of Merit award and Bronze Star Medal.
Schulte reminded listeners that President Ronald Reagan said it was far easier to deal with enemies from a position of strength.
"If you're the biggest kid on the block, you stand a far better chance of never getting into a fight than those that are running their mouths and looking for a fight," Schulte said.
He added strength comes from people who volunteered to serve their country not knowing what they might get into.
Soldiers never know when the next fight is going to happen. Schulte said a colonel who mentored him -- and remains more of a warrior than anybody Schulte has ever met -- began a conversation about war. It was after Vietnam, and the military was not highly regarded. There was not a lot of fighting at the time. But the colonel reminded him that there will be war, and soldiers had to be ready.
That colonel taught him what it takes and what it means to be a soldier in the United States. He said the colonel regretted that he entered the service between wars.
"I said, 'Colonel, absolutely you cannot regret what you did, because you instilled in me and countless other soldiers that need to be proud and do what it takes to prepare and be ready. So when the world knocks at the door, we can answer the door from a position of power and authority,'" Schulte said.
Jefferson City Mayor Ron Fitzwater said he feels privileged to have a father-in-law who is a veteran, and still alive at 92. He said he's had other family members who served in multiple roles in the military.
"My son-in-law spent 10 years over at Whiteman in the Air Force, so I appreciate his service," Fitzwater said.
One person whose service sticks with Fitzwater, he said, was his father, who fought in Korea.
"And like many of you, he served his time and came back to his community, raised his family and got involved in his community," Fitzwater said.
He pulled an olive-color jacket out of a paper bag.
Fitzwater shared that he and his brother went through their parents's things when his mother passed away several months ago. She had kept everything. Among the items they found was a military jacket his father wore when he returned from the service.
"I can remember (as a child) digging into the cedar chest and pulling this jacket out when I was growing up," Fitzwater said. "And kind of envisioning myself in the military, and the privilege that it was."
Saturday's ceremony concluded with two songs performed by Nicole Slusser, a memorial 21 gun salute, buglers playing taps and a prayer.