American Legion Post 20 Commemorates Veterans Day
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice went into effect, ending World War I. It has become a day and time to remember all veterans. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley takes us to the commemoration at the American Legion Post in Plattsburgh.
Although it was the Treaty of Versailles that officially ended World War I, it is the armistice that went into effect on November 11, 1918 that ended hostilities. It is the day chosen to remember veterans — initially as Armistice Day and following World War II as Veterans Day.
At the American Legion in Plattsburgh veterans gathered to honor those who have served the country. Monsignor Dennis Duprey spent four years in Belgium. “When you walk the fields of Flanders and pray in their countless cemeteries which dot that area you can still feel that first great war and its profound impact. Seventy-five thousand British troops killed in that one place is just part of a war where 17 million people died, 7 million of them civilians. Standing in military cemeteries, this is how I have come to know and deeply appreciate what you veterans have done for us and for so many others.”
Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Bernie Bassett said attitudes have changed about returning veterans, but they need more support. “I hope those of you who are veterans are feeling better about how we feel about you. Because we see it in a lot of places now and it is due. But we sure have some work to do especially relative to veterans benefits.”
Retiring New York Congressman Democrat Bill Owens is an Air Force veteran who was stationed at the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. He is from a military family. His father was a gunner who flew 24 missions over Germany in World War II. His great-uncles served in World War I and his great-grandfather served on the Monitor in the Civil War. “Only about a million people have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s compared to about six million in Word War II and I think in the range of two to three million in Vietnam. Obviously during the latter two wars the draft was in place and it compelled people to participate. That to me is a very large concern that less than one percent of our population is actually bearing the brunt of military service. It impacts everyone’s view of veterans and also of service to the country.”
The ceremony included the laying of memorial wreaths. Master of Ceremonies Ron Wood, Sr. “I would like to ask that all of us to stand. We will now have the firing salute followed by Taps played. You may salute or put your hand over your heart.”
As the guns fire, a child shouts “Stop it!”
Plattsburgh Mayor Jim Calnon. “I was struck when we had the gun salute. Stop that. I know we all wish that that were the case, that we would never hear them fired again. We know that’s not going to happen. We know that very brave men and women take an oath of office to defend the Constitution. And they pay a price. Some pay the ultimate price. Some linger with scars for many years. I know in particular to the veterans to my era - the Vietnam era veterans - one of the things that I don’t think they all heard when they got home is something that has to be repeated at every year, at every occasion. Thank you. Welcome home.”