Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6602 honored all American veterans with a special Veterans Day observance Friday outside of its Hinesville headquarters. Richard Dunlop, a retired Army first sergeant, served as master of ceremonies following welcoming remarks by Thomas Woodford, post commander and active-duty soldier, and an invocation by Deacon Adna Chaffee, a retired Army sergeant major.
Dunlop told the large crowd of guests, many of whom were aging veterans or family members of veterans, to stand or sit down accordingly during the posting of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. The color guard was provided by the Liberty County Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
"Today, we have the opportunity to express our gratitude to the men and women who have done their duty to the nation through military service," Dunlop began. "All Americans, no matter where they live or what they do, reap the benefit of the service of our veterans. … It’s an unyielding truth that America’s veterans earned their benefits by making a national commitment that 99 percent of other Americans are simply unwilling to make. … Our veterans have earned the right to be treated with dignity and respect. … Let us always draw strength and inspiration from what they have done."
Concluding his remarks, Dunlop then read the name of each presenting organization and its representative during the laying of 13 special wreaths that surrounded the colors at the base of the VFW flagpole, which flew its extra-large American flag.
The wreath-laying ceremony ended with the ceremonial ringing of the bell at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 2011. The observance was followed by the playing of "Taps" by Bradwell Institute JROTC buglers.
Following this ceremony, Dunlop introduced the guest speaker, Col. Kimo C. Gallahue, commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The colonel has served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
"I’d like to speak a little about ‘what’ and ‘who’ a veteran is," Gallahue began, explaining that it didn’t matter if that veteran was a combat hero or the nurse who treated his wounds or the supply specialist who ensured he got the fuel or ammunition to continue the mission. "A veteran is anyone who’s ever worn a uniform in service of our country. … Veterans have chosen to serve a cause greater than themselves. … They fight for our security in an insecure world. … Our veterans today represent a long, unbroken line of brave Americans. Their service now inspires a new generation of veterans … but all Americans owe all veterans for our liberty."
Gallahue noted that 93 years ago, the battlefields of Europe finally became silent with the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in observance of Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower made Nov. 11 a national observance that celebrates all veterans.
Woodford concluded the ceremonies with a presentation to Gallahue, thanking him for speaking and for his service to the country. Woodford noted that Thursday also was an important day to some of the veterans attending Friday’s observance.
"I know this crowd is primarily Army — I’m kinda partial to the Army myself," Woodford said, chuckling. "But for those who didn’t realize it, yesterday was the Marine Corps’ birthday. So for all you Marines here today, thank you for your service and happy birthday."
Following a benediction by Chaffee, many of the guests, including the American Legion Riders and Soldiers United Motorcycle clubs, as well as civic and business leaders, enjoyed a lunch buffet hosted by the Ladies Aux-iliary.
Some veterans wore all or parts of the service uniform. One guest, Russell Glunt, who will celebrate his 82nd birthday next month, attended the Veterans Day observance in his Air Force uniform, the uniform he proudly wore from October 1950 to December 1990.
"I was stationed all over the world — Korea, Okinawa, England — everywhere," explained the Darien resident, who said he hails from Pennsylvania. "I served with Gen. (Curtis) Lemay. We were known as ‘Peacekeepers of the World’ at that time."
The VFW is a congressionally chartered veterans’ organization founded in 1913. With more than 1.5 million members, the VFW is the largest organization of combat veterans in the country.