As the clock struck 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, local servicemen and women lined up at Howk Memorial Park to commemorate Veterans Day.
VFW Post 6941 commander Gary Primuth and Gil Cole of American Legion Post 8 led a somber yet celebratory gathering that was capped by prayer and a rifle salute.
“This always jogs all of our memories,” said Primuth. “Whether we call it Armistice Day or Veterans Day, we all remember the sacrifice of members who didn’t come home. It’s a day to remember them because we’re all Americans.”
President Woodrow Wilson marked Nov. 11, 1919, as the first Armistice Day — exactly one year after opposing forces in World War I reached a truce. The Great War officially ended on June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
Armistice Day became a federal holiday in 1938.
In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation that changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day in order to be inclusive toward military members who had fought in all American wars.
From 1971 to 1978, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October in an effort to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees, but many states chose to still celebrate on Nov. 11. President Gerald Ford signed off on officially moving the holiday back to November in 1975.
No matter what time of year it is, Cole said more needs to be done for veterans coming back from fighting overseas.
“We have to help these people piece their lives back together and fit back into society,” he said. “About 22 veterans a week commit suicide. Countless veterans have (post traumatic stress disorder). These people give the rest of us the right and opportunity to be here today and we need to help them.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are an estimated 558,000 surviving World War II veterans — a small chunk of the more than 16 million armed forced members who served.
Primuth said as fewer veterans remain to share their first-hand accounts of history, more pressure falls on society and younger generations to preserve the ideals that were fought for.
“Hollywood gets it right sometimes,” he said. “Any war movie that’s accurate is an anti-war movie. We had a good group of kids at our Veterans Day breakfast at McCormick (Middle School) and that obviously meant a lot to us. Everyone just has to be vigilant and not let all of this information slip away. It’s too important. It’s important to all of us.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.