Veterans Honored with Patriotic Pride

November 22, 2013

by Bob Gibbs

Salem held its annual Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park.  A large crowd of adults and children attended the festivities on a beautiful sunny fall day in New England.  Members of the Salem Police and Fire Departments were also in attendance giving their respect to all veterans of military service to the United States.

Following opening remarks by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) association president Douglas Michlon, Chaplain George MacLean gave the opening prayer honoring all veterans and asking for protection for all current active duty military personnel around the world.

The Salem High School chorus sang “The National Anthem” with most in attendance singing along with the chorus.  During the National Anthem, members of several Salem scouting troops held flags, as did many children in the audience.

Following the introduction of several state, county and local officials, guest speaker Michael Downing, Rockingham County High Sheriff, spoke to the audience.

The following is a transcript of Sheriff Downing’s Veterans Day speech:

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, fellow veterans, patriots all, who have chosen to come out on a Monday to pay homage to those who have worn the uniform of our armed forces, and to those who wear it today across the breadth of the globe; in defense of America’s way of life, our national interests and for the rights of free people everywhere.

Each year, we, the people of the United States, set aside two days to honor the sacrifice of our military men and women.  In May, we commemorate Memorial Day to honor those who have died in service.  On the 11th of November we celebrate Veterans Day to honor all those who have worn the uniform and marched under the colors of the United States of America.

Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” to commemorate and celebrate the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month 1918 when the guns of World War I fell silent along the Western front.  President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day on November 22, 1919 proclaiming, “To us in America, the reflection of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations”.

We inaugurated a national holiday “Armistice Day” by act of Congress in 1938 to celebrate the end of “the war to end all wars.”  The world had never witnessed such unbridled slaughter and it was over, never to be repeated; we thought!

Unfortunately, we human beings never seem to learn.  The horrible obscenity of war never ceases and rages to this day.  No matter how hard we labor, evil lurks in the shadows and the base emotions of greed, religious and racial bigotry, avarice and false national pride always gives vent to conflict.  When evil is abroad, free peoples must remain vigilant and brave men and women must step forward to deter aggression or combat it.  We keep producing veterans.  On June 1st, 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name of the legal holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

The veterans of the Great War whose armistice we celebrated are gone now.  Today, we honor the thinning ranks of the “Greatest Generation” who fought World War II, the aging heroes of the “Forgotten War” in Korea, the veterans of the steaming jungles of Vietnam and the desert sands of Kuwait and Iraq.  We honor those who still fight and die in the wastelands of Afghanistan.  We also should pay homage to those who stood the lonely vigil throughout the forty-five years of “Cold War”, eventually wearing down the resilience of the former Soviet Empire and its domination of Eastern Europe.

Every veteran still serving, honorably discharged or retired from service to our country deserves our respect this day and every day, but especially Veterans Day.  The government assigns the mission to be performed, the military man or woman performs the duty to the best of his or her ability.  In war or peace, in battle or alone, bored, cold and wet on a sentry post over watching the DMZ in Korea; on the North Atlantic Station in a destroyer, in an Aleutian Island Coast Guard Loran site, performing a precision drill at 8th & I in Washington, DC or on a mind numbing cargo flight halfway around the world, whatever the duty is or was, the service was for the defense of the United States and our way of life.  It should be honored.

We, the citizens of the United States, owe a debt to our veteran population.  We need to proactively support the Veterans Administration System to ensure that injured, sick and aging vets are not left to their own devices.  We need to support programs that assist veterans with education and housing, with small business development and with job training.  Since World War II, our country has been very generous with veteran’s benefits for those who have earned them.  We need to stay the course.

To those of you who are veterans, we hope you are proud of that fact.  Proclaim your service.  Be proud to wear your medals and the symbols of your branch of service at patriotic occasions.  Show by example how to render honors to our flag and national anthem.  Welcome those young people who follow in your footsteps of service into the brethren of veteran.  Stand Tall!

There you have it.  Today the bands will play, the flags will fly; the trumpet will sound; the drum will beat a lonely tattoo; the salutes will be fired booming out over the American landscape.  A few tears will be shed for absent friends.  Perhaps the most important observation will be the occasional quiet and very personal handshake and “thank you for your service.”  Our job is to just remember the service and the sacrifice.

Thank you all for coming here today.  May God bless our State of New Hampshire and may God bless the United States of America.“

After the words from Sheriff Downing, the chorus sang “Patriotic Festival” which was followed by Salem High School Band members, Kenneth Cayabyab and Nathan Maynard playing “Taps.”  The ceremony was ended with a gun salute from the VFW firing squad.