As they do every Veterans Day, members of the VFW Post 7181 and American Legion Post 414 gathered with the mayor and a small group of onlookers at the park on Adams and Thomas streets to honor military veterans.
Per tradition, the moving tribute commenced at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, remembering the anniversary of the exact moment that the Germans signed the Armistice, effectively ending World War I in 1918.
After an opening prayer from Rev. Charles Cairo, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, a greeting from VFW member Howard “Bud” Boy, and solemn presentation of the colors, Mayor Anthony Calderone expressed his appreciation and respect for veterans.
“This is the ninth year I’ve been here for Veterans Day and I still get chills, quite honestly, especially when they fire the guns,” Calderone said. “It’s a very moving ceremony. If you think of all the men and women that have protected our freedom, it really humbles you. Hopefully, it can give all of us a little different meaning and purpose in life.”
After the presentation of a wreath and salute to commemorate American soldiers who gave their lives in service to our country, VFW and American Legion members fired rifle shots, Taps was played, and the colors were retired.
“Fighting for our country, we think the soldiers that didn’t make it deserve some kind of recognition,” said American Legion Commander Floyd Schultz, who served in Korea. “Nowadays, if you’re a veteran sometimes you’re viewed as nothing. We don’t feel that way. We feel lucky to be Americans and love this country. You ask any one of us who served, we did it willingly and we would do it again if we could,”
The ceremony, which also saw memorial wreaths placed at the Park District grounds, St. Bernadine’s and Forest Home Cemetery, honored not only military veterans but current members of the armed forces.
“People tend to forget,” said Boy, who served in Germany during the 1950s. “Somebody has to keep the memory going. We are at war in numerous parts in the world, and there are men and women out there protecting us. We had a Marine [Staff Sgt. Robby Toledano], sharp as a tack, attend our ceremony. His presence was a great honor. I went over and thanked him for his service to our country and so did everybody else. That’s the way it should be. If you see a veteran or a soldier, thank them because they deserve it.”