OSWEGO, NY – Port City veterans, their friends, families and others hunkered down Friday morning along the west bank of the Oswego River to pay tribute to those who have gone before them – especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The crowd, down a couple dozen from last year, dozen, stood by reverently in Veterans’ Memorial Park as the appointed hour neared.
The temperature was around 40 degrees, but a cold wind was blowing in off the lake, the harbinger of things to come.
Veterans’ Day is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour; that’s when the (World War I) truce was declared, according to LTjg George Hoffman, USNSCC, of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corp Truxtun DDG-103 Division in Oswego.
A chaplain offered the Veterans’ Day prayer and the flags at the center of the park were lowered; the Oswego City flag was first. It was solemnly folded.
The Prisoner Of War flag balked and will be retired at a later time.
Dan Ferens, whose father was a POW at Stalag 17 during World War II, attempted to lower the POW flag in honor of his father and all veterans who were ever prisoners.
Finally, the American flag was retired as well.
The flags were dutifully presented to Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow.
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 on Memorial Day.
Hoffman welcomed all the veterans and guests to the ceremony.
“Today we honor our veterans who have sacrificed both in war and in peace to protect America and the American way of life,” Hoffman said. “We are here to honor our brave men and women who have proudly served this great nation, for they are the fabric from which our flag has been woven.”
He saluted the veterans present at the ceremony and then also recognized the family members of service men and women who were in attendance.
The veterans, he said, are ordinary people who responded to extraordinary times. “They follow in the footsteps of generations of fine Americans,” he added.
In 1984, Mayor William Cahill dedicated the Oswego County Veterans’ Memorial Park, Mayor Barlow told the crowd, “So that we’d never forget the strength and sacrifices that our veterans displayed.”
He thanked everyone for attending and thanked the veterans for their service,
This year marked the 98th anniversary of the first Armistice Day observance.
It commemorates the Armistice back in 1918, after World War I (“the Great War, the War to end all wars”), Hoffman said.
It was signed at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, he explained.
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.
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.
Finally, on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law that returned the annual observance to its original date beginning in 1978.
“Today is a day to honor veterans. So, if you see a serviceman or veteran, make sure you thank them or even give them a hug,” Hoffman said. “Veterans’ Day honors all who served, regardless of when or where. Today is their day to be honored by a grateful nation. Every generation owe a debt of gratitude to these patriots of the past and present.”
They have established a standard of courage and honor for the entire world to witness, he said, adding that “today and every day we must keep alive their memories.”
“Your presence here today proves that we will live up to our obligation for each and every individual that has ever worn the uniform of our country,” he told the crowd.
Oswego’s park is the site of the first free-standing MIA – POW monument in the nation. A monument, honoring those who served as part of Operation Enduring Freedom / Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq and Afghanistan), was added in 2013 to the memorials to veterans of the nation’s other wars.