Veterans were hailed at several events throughout Highland County on Monday during Veterans Day tributes.
During the Hillsboro VFW’s event, Rick Wilkin, commander of Hillsboro’s VFW Post 9094, provided a little history on Veterans Day during the Veterans Day celebration at the Hillsboro post.
”Veterans Day is a well-known American holiday, but there are also a few misconceptions about it, like how it’s spelled or whom exactly it celebrates,” Wilkin said. “A lot of people think it’s ‘Veteran’s Day’ or ‘Veterans’ Day,’ but they’re wrong. The holiday is not a day that belongs to one veteran or multiple veterans, which the apostrophe implies. It’s a day that honors all veterans so no apostrophe is needed. Veterans Day honors all those who have served the country in war or peace, dead or alive, although it’s largely intended to thank living veterans for their service.”
Wilkin also told attendees that Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day, which commemorated the ending of World War I. Wilkin said that though World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, many people considered the day when the U.S. and Germany put into effect an armistice — Nov. 11, 1918 — to be the end of the war. Armistice Day became an official holiday in 1938, and people used it as a day to celebrate World War I veterans. On June 1, 1954, Congress changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day. In 1968, Congress changed the date of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday of every October in an attempt to encourage people to travel over the long weekend, which they hoped would stimulate the economy. Wilkin said that many states continued to celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11 despite the change. On Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford changed the date back to Nov. 11.
Wilkin pointed out that several U.S. allies, like Canada and Australia, also celebrate their veterans on Nov. 11.
Sergeant First Class Jessie Peters spoke at the VFW’s celebration, discussing his experiences while he served in Kuwait and Afghanistan.
”You do not really understand what you have until it’s taken away,” Peters said. “Have you ever complained whenever it’s hot or cold? About not being able to take a hot shower? About your brothers or sisters being annoying? Have you ever had to heat up your food or actually had to cook it? Close your eyes and imagine: you’re sitting outside, and it’s cold. You’re thirsty and hungry. You haven’t had a shower in 30 days. You haven’t seen your mom, dad, brothers or sisters for a year. The only phone you have is a pencil and paper. When you lay down to rest, you constantly hear the sirens going off because rockets are landing all around you. You’re not sure if you’re going to have a tomorrow. The quote ‘yesterday is history, today is a present and tomorrow is a gift’ takes a whole new meaning. When you wake up, you’re so excited you’re alive. When you get that letter from your family, it feels like Christmas.”
Later in the day, Hillsboro High School held a Veterans Day assembly to recognize and thank veterans for their service and to educate students about the day. The assembly featured music performed by the choir and band, a video prepared by the Hillsboro City Council and speaker Alex Butler, a Hillsboro High School alumnus. Following his introduction, Butler took the time to shake Denver Conley’s hand. Butler said Conley served in the Air Force during the Korean War.
“I don’t know how old you are,” Butler said to Conley, “but I know you’re pushing 90, and I still wouldn’t want to fight you.”
When Butler returned to the podium, he told a few jokes, then went into contrasting situations in an attempt to give students perspective.
“I was able to do [the things I’ve done] and have those opportunities because of the veterans who had gone before,” Butler said. “In my late teens when I was finishing high school just like a lot of you are right now, in past generations, others were on the waters of the Pacific and the fields of Europe — not by their own choice; they were drafted. In my early 20s when I was in college, others in past generations were in the jungles of Vietnam and in Korea — again, not always by choice. Now I’m in my late 20s, and I’m still alive and doing what I want to do, when others in past generations have not had these same opportunities.”
During the remainder of his speech, Butler encouraged the students present to be good citizens, even if they weren’t looking at going into the military.
“Compared to the reality of the rest of the world, this is the best place to be as long as we’re free,” Butler said. “Being an American is something special.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.