‘Not in vain’
Ceremony: ‘Thank you and God bless you’ to our military veterans
Dreary, chilly weather didn’t prevent a good-sized crowd from gathering at Soldiers and Sailors Park for the annual program hosted by the American Legion Chief Cornplanter Post 135. It included musical selections, the Raising of the Colors, reading of the Gettysburg Address, placing of a wreath, and guest speakers.
Douglas Scholar, commander of Post 135, welcomed those in attendance and gave a brief history of Veterans Day. Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans–living or dead–but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
Scholar encouraged everyone to do their part to “defend our freedom.” He suggested people do that by getting out to vote, speaking out against injustice and volunteering in the community.
A guest speaker, U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Smith echoed the need for “more to be done,” specifically for veterans.
Smith, a graduate of Warren High School, took those in attendance to a trip down “memory lane” that included several references to “Chicken Little.”
Henny Penny, more commonly known in the United States as Chicken Little and sometimes as Chicken Licken, is a European folk tale with a moral in the form of a cumulative tale about a chicken who believes the world is coming to an end. The moral of the traditional story is to have courage, even when it feels like the sky is falling.
Smith denounced the gloomy prediction of Chicken Little as he recalled how our country has progressed in recognizing veterans.
He started by recalling taking part in an activity to recognize World War I veterans in 1944.
“I was nine years old at the time,” Smith said.
His aunt, who was active in the VFW auxiliary, took him to Warren State Hospital.
“We sang and gave them little gifts,” he said. The money for the event was raised through poppy sales.
Smith then spoke of a government “thank you” offered to veterans of World War II. Veterans were offered $20 pay for 52 weeks, Smith said. The unemployment pay included in the G.I. Bill was known as 52/20 Club, which provided a payment of $20 dollars a week for up to 52 weeks while veterans looked for jobs following their discharges.
“The war was over,” Smith said. “A lot of veterans said, ‘We don’t want to talk about it. Let’s get on with our lives.'”
Smith then recognized the veterans who served in the Korean War. He said it is often called “the forgotten war.” He added that the late President Harry S. Truman called the war “police action.”
The Korean War has been called “the forgotten war” in the United States, where coverage of the 1950s conflict was censored and its memory decades later is often overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War.
In the early days of the Korean War, Truman referred to the United States’ response to the North Korean invasion as a “police action” under the aegis of the United Nations.
Smith also spoke of the treatment of many veterans of the Vietnam War. “Veterans were spit at and cussed at,” he said. “Vietnam was not popular. Soldiers took the brunt of that.”
As he referred back to Chicken Little, Smith said there is hope.
“Chicken Little was wrong,” he said. “We must pledge to keep faith with our veterans to let them know their sacrifices were not in vain.”
“Have we done enough for our veterans?” Smith asked. “Absolutely not. But we’ve made progress.”
Smith then asked everyone in the crowd to simply touch the person next to them, veteran or not. “Just reach out,” he said. “Let them know you’re there.”
Smith concluded by asking each person to offer the person next to them a silent prayer. “Thank you and God bless you,” he said.