As they have done for decades, members of the American Legion Family organized, led or participated in Veterans Day events across the nation. And in some of those events, those Legion Family members took the opportunity to share the organization’s Be the One veteran suicide-prevention program.
In New York City, The American Legion’s float highlighted Be the One and included as a passenger Past National Commander Vincent J. Troiola.
Be the One was a key component in an event that included members of the Arkansas Legion Family. And in Eagle Point, Ore., it was the centerpiece of the Veterans Day commemoration.
The Department of Oregon staged a Be the One summit on Veterans Day that included a parade and ceremony, as well as multiple veteran resources that included specialists from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The event took place in the Eagle Point High School gym and drew what event coordinator and Department Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Chairman Bob Huff estimated was around 700 people.
“It went well,” Huff said. “A lot of work went into it, but it was worth it. We had 25 tables out, and we had most of the VA services there … to let people understand how to get help. You shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for help. This is your family. That’s what we’re here for.”
Huff said Legion Family members handed out bracelets, pamphlets and other Be the One promotional materials during the event. “Our department service officer was there, and he was answering questions,” Huff said. “We had so many compliments from people (who attended). And I actually recruited people who wanted to help do the same. It felt good. It was a total success.”
The following are a few examples of how the American Legion Family observed Veterans Day in their communities. Please share your stories and photos at www.legiontown.org.
In Kenai, American Legion Post 20’s ceremony included representatives of the state’s congressional delegation, local politicians and members of the post. Past Post Commander Dave Segura provided a brief history of Veterans Day, while current Post Commander Ron Homan added that “a veteran is a veteran, which means the American Legion embraces all current and former members of the military and endeavors to help them transition into their communities.”
In Safford, Swift-Murphy Post 32 Commander Eric Taylor used the Gila Valley Veterans Day to share information on Be the One and the veteran suicide crisis.
“What that is, is to prevent veteran suicide,” Taylor said. “Be the one simply means to be the one to speak out, be the one to offer a hand when you see a veteran suffering from PTSD, or other things going on. If you see that maybe they’re just not quite right.”
In Woodland, Yolo Post 77 American Legion’s Veterans Day ceremony drew more than 200 attendees. The ceremony took place outside of the Yolo County Courthouse and included the Yolo Community Band performing “A Musical Salute to our Veterans.”
Post 77 Second Vice Commander Alberto Castillo started the ceremony noting, “on this day we commemorate the service and sacrifice of those who answered the nation’s call to arms. Each of them has endured hardship in one form or another during their time of service and, whether that service was in wartime or peace, in combat or support, each of them gave themselves so that they may stand here today in peace.”
In New Haven, the city’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony featured American Legion Post 210 Commander Mark Osenko as its keynote speaker. “Today is not just another day,” Osenko said. “It is bigger than you or me. It serves as a reminder of why we are free.”
In Lewes, a new memorial honoring veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom was unveiled following a Veterans Day ceremony at American Legion Post 17. The memorial contains the dog tags of the 7,132 servicemembers who died in those conflicts.
In Lady Lake, American Legion Post 347 hosted a ceremony and distributed poppies. Members of the American Legion Auxiliary provided remarks during the event.
In Wildwood, American Legion Tri-City Post 18 teamed with the City of Wildwood and the Wildwood Police Department for an event that included a golf cart parade that started at the police department and ended at Post 18. “Veterans need each other, but more importantly, our country needs our veterans,” said Post 18 Commander Sam Bass.
In Morris Township, Veterans Day served as the unveiling of 44 Hometown Heroes banners, which were a collaboration between American Legion Post 59, the township and the community.
In Cape Vincent, John C. Londraville American Legion Post 832 led a community parade that led to a ceremony at the post, where four Purple Heart Veterans recipients were honored.
“It’s been a long time. It’s been overdue, this event we held for them,” said Post 832 Commander Joe Chavoustie.
Jefferson County American Legion Commander July Wallace also spoke about the Purple Heart recipients, noting, “They probably never thought they’d make it home, but they made it home. That’s the greatest thing any veteran can do to give back to the country.”
In Hertford, American Legion Post 126 sponsored the Veterans Day event at the Perquimans County Recreation Center. Retired U.S. Army Col. Gary Kollmann, Post 126’s adjutant, spoke at the event and called veterans a “unifying force” during his remarks.
“They come from all walks of life, representing the rich tapestry of our nation,” Kollmann said. “Yet, when they put on the uniform, they become an even greater power — the embodiment of the American spirit. Our debt to these heroes can never be repaid but our gratitude and respect must last forever.”
Kollmann also talked about American Legion advocacy and community involvement, and shared information on the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, saying it is available to “anyone who is contemplating such a heartbreaking and tragic outcome.”
The event also included a POW/MIA remembrance service.
In Lackawanna County, Koch-Conley American Legion Post 121 conducted its annual Veterans Day program at the courthouse. The featured speaker was retired Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Thomas Vanaskie.
“It’s important to the public, I believe, for veterans to have a voice, be recognized and do their part for their community," Post 121 Legionnaire Joe Albert said.
North Augusta American Legion Post 71’s Veterans Day celebration was attended by nearly 100 people and featured Fort Eisenhower’s Maj. Peter Yoon as the keynote speaker.
Also speaking was Post 71 Chaplain Mike Milheim, who said, “I just felt compelled that God said that for me, the motto of my life has been to find a need and fill it. And Jesus said that He didn’t come here to be served, but He came to be a servant. … That’s what we all are here. If you find something to pour your life into, do it. Better it is to give than to receive.”
Post 71 also honored its Legion Family members who passed away over the past year. One of those included World War II and D-Day veteran Dr. Marvin Buncher.
In Indianola, American Legion Post 165 held a Veterans Day ceremony at the IOOF Cemetery in front of the memorial honoring Medal of Honor recipient Junior Edwards. The ceremony involved a flag raising, lowering the flag to half-staff, a 21-gun salute and Indianola High School student Aiden Keller playing Taps.
In Culpepper, American Legion Post 330 was one of the organizations supporting the Culpepper National Cemetery’s Veterans Day ceremony. During the event, Post 330 Commander Lori Medley shared information about the Legion’s Be the One program.
“We really want to reach out and try to give them back a sense of community, that they have that comrade that they can talk to about their experiences, that they can tell those stories, what they’ve been through that would make most people cry but, for us, we could find a way to laugh about it,” Medley said. “It’s OK not to be OK.”
During Saturday’s ceremony, Post 330 presented a check for $5,000 to the American Heritage Girls Troop VA 0412, which leads local Wreaths Across America efforts. Post 330 also hosted an open house luncheon after the ceremony.
In Ceredo-Kenova, American Legion Post 93 continued a tradition dating back to the 1970s with its annual Veterans Day parade. Click here for video from this year’s parade.