The community showed its support for veterans Monday, beginning with a formal Veterans Day ceremony at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 6602. There also were discounts or free meals provided for veterans by restaurants.
As visitors and participants arrived at the VFW on E.G. Miles Parkway, the American Legion Auxiliary’s Linda Cooper pinned crepe paper poppies on their lapels. The poppy commemorates the origin of Veterans Day, which goes back to Armistice Day — the ending of the war that was meant to end all wars, World War I. According to the American Legion Auxiliary, legion-aux.org/Programs/Poppy/, the poppy symbol was taken from a line in “In Flanders Field,” a poem written in 1915 by Canadian Army doctor, Lt. Col. McCrae.
The 10 a.m. ceremony began with music by the 3rd Infantry Division Band as veterans, past and present, including a motorcycle club, Soldiers United, arrived. Cadets from the Bradwell Institute and Liberty County High School’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps participated in the ceremony.
World War II veteran Russell Glunt, who said he attends the VFW-sponsored ceremony every year, was in his wheelchair under the watchful eye of his wife, Elizabeth. The Glunts now call Darien home, but military service was his life for more than 40 years.
“I served (in the Army Air Corps then Air Force) for 40 years, one month, 23 days and 33 minutes,” said Glunt, who spent seven of those years at Hunter Army Airfield. “When they gave me those walking papers, I was gone.”
Active duty soldiers attending included the 3rd ID color guard and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield garrison commander and command sergeant major, Col. Kevin Gregory and Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Felicioni.
Civilian officials there included state Rep. Al Williams, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier and City Councilmen David Anderson and Kenneth Shaw. Representatives from veterans organizations attended, including Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 789, American Legion Posts 168 and 321, and Disabled American Veterans Chapter 46.
Hinesville AUSA President Joe Ford and Army Reserve Ambassador for Georgia Lou Carreras were assisted in placing a wreath for their organizations by Army Reservists Sfc. Robert Evans and Master Sgt. Kent Smith, 2nd Battalion, 349th Logistical Support Regiment.
Following the posting of the colors and presentation of a Bible by VFW Auxiliary leaders, a series of wreaths were laid on line with the colors. At 11 a.m., everyone stood and saluted for sounding of a bell on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — the end of World War I.
Guest speaker Alfred Lipphardt, senior vice commander of the VFW of Georgia, quoted the oath of enlistment taken by every service man or woman. He said the oath marks the beginning of their lifelong service as a veteran.
“I don’t remember ever taking an ‘unoath’ of office,” said Lipphardt, who is responsible for the retention of nearly 22,000 VFW members. “Today is a good time to remember those who are not here with us ... On this day, we’ll proudly honor every man or woman who ever wore a (U.S. military) uniform.”
Lipphardt said fewer than one-half of 1 percent of Americans have served in the military. Therefore, most don’t understand what it means to serve. He said Americans always have defended the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, regardless the cost. He then listed every war from the American Revolution to the conflict in Afghanistan, which he called the “longest sustained war in American history.”
He said veterans’ benefits are not entitlements. The sweat, wounds and sacrifice of veterans deserve the service and support they were promised, he said.
“Let us never let up (defending the benefits of veterans),” Lipphardt said. “Let us offer a prayer of thanks for all those who’ve served.”