TOWNSEND -- The history of Veterans Day was written on the program handed out at the VFW monument in West Townsend on Veterans Day.
A federal holiday, Veterans Day celebrates the service of all United States veterans, to honor their bravery and sacrifices.
Its origins were in 1918, where Veterans Day was first known as Armistice Day, to honor the end of World War I. It was not until 1954 that the word "Armistice" was substituted with the word "Veterans," and became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, "Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. "
VFW Post Commander John Whittemore opened the ceremony with a welcome to all followed by a prayer from veteran Russell Jobe, a former post commander.
Veteran Brian Colby read a poem during the singing of "God Bless America." The veterans linked hands, just one of the emotional moments of the ceremony. Another that brought tears was Commander Whittemore's reading of "The Unknown Soldier," by Billy Rose.
There's a graveyard near the White House
Where the Unknown Soldier lies,
And the flowers there are sprinkled
With the tears from mothers' eyes.
I stood there not so long ago
With roses for the brave,
And suddenly I heard a voice
Speak from out the grave:
I am the Unknown Soldier,
The spirit voice began
And I think I have the right
To ask some questions man to man.
Are my buddies taken care of?
Was their victory so sweet?
Is that big reward you offered
Selling pencils on the street?
Did they really win the freedom
They battled to achieve?
Do you still respect that Croix de Guerre
Above that empty sleeve?
Does a gold star in the window
Now mean anything at all?
I wonder how my old girl feels
When she hears a bugle call.
I wonder if the profiteers
Have satisfied their greed?
I wonder if a soldier's mother
Ever is in need?
I wonder if the kings who planned it all
Are really satisfied?
They played their game of checkers
And eleven million died.
I am the Unknown Soldier
And maybe I died in vain,
But if I were alive and my country called,
I'd do it all over again.
VFW Auxiliary President Betty Mae Tenney and Whittemore laid wreaths at the memorial. Taps was played.
In closing statements, Tenney said, "We'd like to express our appreciation for the sacrifice and bravery of all those who have served ... and to those who have died ... to those who are still here.
"America is number one because of those who serve and those who have served," she said. "Thank you for your bravery and courage... Please say thank you whenever you see a veteran. This means more to him than any medals given to him.
"Each year, on November 11th, Veterans Day is a federal holiday to celebrate American veterans, their courage, valor and sacrifice," said Tenney. "They have given of themselves freely, sacrificed much for our freedom. Please, and not just on Veterans Day, say 'thank you for serving.' It's the least that anyone can do for those who have given so much."