OSWEGO, NY ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Approximately four dozen people, young and old, ringed Veterans’ Memorial Park on Tuesday.
They gathered among the flags and monuments like they always do ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ 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.
After a brief prayer in honor of all veterans, especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom, 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 to be next.
Then, the American flag was retired as well.
The flags will be raised again next spring.
Mayor Randy Bateman accepted the flags on behalf of the city.
The temperature lingered in the upper 30s. A brisk northerly wind off Lake Ontario made it feel much colder than it was.
Still, the veterans and others came, just like last year and the year before that and the year before that.
“The guys who are honored by these monuments went through the same stuff and much worse,” Bill McCarthy of the city’s veterans’ council said of the weather. “It was cold. It was hot. It was muddy. It was everything; and there were no Saturdays and Sundays off.”
Oswego area veterans huddled next to each other with family and friends as they witnessed the brief ceremony.
“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,” McCarthy explained. “That’s when the truce was declared. No matter what they call it, it’s still Armistice Day.”
“Today is the 90th anniversary of that first observance,” said George Hoffman, the day’s MC.
In 1954, the holiday was changed to Veterans’ Day following World War II and the Korean War, he pointed out.
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 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ “observed with much confusion.”
“Many states didn’t agree with this and continued to celebrate the holiday on its original date he 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.”
“Veterans’ Day, once a widely celebrated holiday has basically been forgotten by Americans,” Oswego Veterans’ Council President David Dirk said. “With the percentage of citizens that wore the uniform rapidly declining, appreciation for the sacrifices made by our fellow veterans is correspondingly diminishing.”
The nation owes an eternal debt to its veterans, he said.
“Today, it is my honor and privilege to represent the citizens of Oswego and salute all the courageous veterans who selflessly served our country,” the mayor said.
“Veterans Day is a day of respect for those who served their country and for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” McCarthy added.