OSWEGO, NY – More than six dozen people, young and old, gathered in Veterans’ Memorial Park on Friday.
They stood among the flags and monuments like they always do – to honor their fallen comrades who gave the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the rest of us continue to live in a free nation.
The park is reportedly the site of the first free-standing MIA – POW monument in the nation.
The flags at the center of the park were lowered; the Oswego City flag was first. It was solemnly folded.
The Prisoners Of War flag was next.
Then, the American flag was retired as well.
Seaman Apprentice Matthew T. Glenn, of the Oswego Navy Sea Cadet, assisted Oswego veteran Paul Riordan in lowering and folding the American flag.
He then presented the flags to Oswego Mayor Randy Bateman.
The mayor accepted the colors on behalf of the city. They will be stored over the winter and then returned to their place of prominence next spring when Mayor-elect Tom Gillen presides over his first Memorial Day ceremony.
The temperature toyed with 50 degrees last year, making it one of the nicer days on which the ceremony has been held. On Friday, snow was in the air and the temperature languished in the upper 30s. However, this year’s crowd appeared larger than in 2010, as more than 70 people huddled in the park.
Veterans Day commemorates the Armistice back in 1918, after World War I.
It is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour; that’s when the truce was declared, according to LTjg George Hoffman, USNSCC, of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corp Truxtun DDG-103 Division in Oswego.
There are many ways to honor a veteran on this day, Hoffman told the crowd.
“Thank you for never forgetting the sacrifices of America’s fighting men and women,” he said. “One of the ways to honor veterans is flying the flag. Another way, make your voice heard. Military benefits are being threatened . . . get a hold of your legislators and tell them don’t cut their veterans and military short. Also, observe the day with a veteran. It means the world to these veterans who are in the hospital if you just stop by and say hello. And, you can also provide a meal to a veteran.”
“Thanks for coming out today and supporting our veterans,” said Mayor Bateman. “Just remember, it could be snowing.”
“Today is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Today in Nov. 11, 2001 – or 11-11-11! It won’t happen again,” he told the crowd. “More importantly, it is Veterans’ Day. It gives us an opportunity to thank the veterans of our community for their services, their sacrifices and their dedication to our country. It allows us to enjoy the freedoms that we have today. For the past six years as mayor, I have had many opportunities to go to events and ceremonies; but none have meant more than the ones for the veterans.”
The ceremony was attended by dozens of members of local organizations including the VFW, American Legion, Elks and Girl Scout (who lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance).
Friday marked the 93rd anniversary of that first observance, Hoffman, the day’s MC, added.
In 1954, the holiday was changed to Veterans’ Day following World War II and the Korean War.
In 1968 it was decided to move the holiday to the last Monday of October, he said. The first non-traditional Veterans’ Day was celebrated Oct. 25, 1971 – “observed with much confusion.”
“Many states didn’t agree with this and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date,” Hoffman noted. “Finally on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law that returned the annual observance to its original date beginning in 1978.”
Seaman Apprentice Glenn said he hopes to attend the US Naval Academy some day.
For more information about the Sea Cadets, contact Hoffman at 315-591-0000, or e-mail [email protected]