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Local veterans get a standing ovation at the Mattoon High School Veterans Day assembly Friday. 

MATTOON -- The story of Lawrence Riddle could very well be the story of many other veterans, maybe including those who attended Mattoon High School's Veterans Day assembly Friday. 

"Lawrence Riddle was just a guy like the guy down the street," said Carolyn Cloyd, who researched the veteran.  "... but, his country called, and he went." 

Riddle, a local decorated World War I veteran and high school alum, was a highlighted figure at Friday's assembly. 

This year marked 100 years not only since he died but also since the armistice between nations was signed. So, with his clothing and medals on display, his life and his story were given a special mention during the event. 


Local World War I hero Lawrence Riddle's display was center stage at the Mattoon High School assembly. 

Riddle, whose family was prominent and dated back to the pioneers of the city, was a farmer at heart. He played football and track during high school and graduated in 1906. Later he went on to the University of Illinois before he would ultimately find himself back on the farm. 

Cloyd described him as a ordinary young adult, before finding himself across the ocean fighting in the war. 

"World War I started, the draft came out and he wanted to serve" Cloyd said. "He was one of those young men that was eager to serve his country." 

He even requested the draft board to move him up so he could help out sooner. In 1918, he landed in France in August serving as part of the 131st Infantry. In his short time serving, he earned himself a distinguished service cross and a Corix de Guerre with a bronze palm. In October that year, he observed a machine gun nest and got four others to go with him and charge the nest, taking it out and capturing the guns.  

Not long after, he died, notably 20 hours before the armistice was decided. To marks the anniversary of his death. 

Riddle's life has since been honored in varying forms. The Mattoon High School yearbook was named in his memory, as well as the Mattoon American Legion Post. Riddle Elementary School was built on Riddle land and named for the Riddle family, including Lawrence.

Cloyd said his story speaks to that of the veterans at the assembly Friday. She said people forget "the enormity" of what these veterans did and what was sacrificed to do it. 

Mattoon High School alum Hunter Warner said that better stressed the importance of not only the upcoming holiday, but ceremonies like that at the high school as a whole. Warner, who was a guest among the veterans at the assembly, recently finished basic training for the Marine Corps. 

From his time with other veterans, Warner concluded that these ceremonies serve as reminders.  

"Once you retire out of the military and you kind of go away, it kind of seems like what you have done kind of disappears and people don't notice it," Warner said. "It is good for these kind of things because it brings back those memories of why you joined." " 

It is about acknowledging what they did was worth something, he added.

Tony Hernandez, an Air Force veteran, said those who have served can often and easily be forgotten, specifically noting those veterans who are homeless. These events ensure that is not the case, he said. For himself, these events cut deep.

"To come here and do this-- this is just really great," Hernandez said. "It goes deep with the veterans, because you got all of these young kids. It is nice to see that, because you don't see that a lot."   

Along with recognizing the service of veterans in the audience, attendees saw performances from the JROTC Drill Team.


The Mattoon High School Drill Team performs at the assembly Friday in the gymnasium. 

Major Douglas Peterson, who was the keynote speaker, tasked the students to go beyond recognition to honor veterans this weekend. 

"Find somewhere to serve. Find someone to serve," Peterson said. "If you want to honor veterans, commit an act of service." 

Serve in whatever way possible, he said. 

Other events are scheduled throughout the weekend including a Veterans Day parade at 10 a.m and an 11 a.m. ceremony in Peterson Park in Mattoon. 

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Contact Jarad Jarmon at (217) 238-6839. Follow him on Twitter: @JJarmonReporter



Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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