P.O.W. forgives at Veterans Day ceremony

By Joe Bennett

November 11, 2012 Updated Nov 12, 2012 at 11:33 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Marching in Peoria's 2012 Veterans Day Parade offers solace to those who have lost a service member in time of war.

For the fallen heroes who gave their lives, the memorial offers the highest level of respect.

According to the memorial service Master of Ceremonies Ron Hawotte, "It's about every veteran that's ever died for this country, the ones that are still living, the ones that are retired, the active duty ones, their families who have endured all the hardships of them being gone and not knowing."

A ceremony followed the parade at the World War memorials outside of the Peoria County Courthouse.

World War II Army veteran Leland Chandler spoke during the service.

He recalls the atrocities he witnessed as a prisoner of war for more than three years in Japan.

His most difficult triumph, he says, was finding a way to forgive the captors who tortured him and hundreds more.

"I put it out of my mind, I forgot about it, except to speak," Chandler said. "And I feel better today for it."

Chandler was one of 52 people liberated from an oil mill that once held 400 prisoners.

Ron Hawotte says he become a ceremony speaker out of respect for survivors like Chandler.

"To me, your standing in the presence of great, honorable, courageous people," said Hawotte. "I just can't think how to stand here and honor these people correctly other than what we do on days like today."

A day that hundreds of family members and friends in Peoria pay tribute to hundreds of others who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

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