In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This site, located on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and Washington, D.C., became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans.
Over 100 years later the history of American veterans has coursed through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War on Terror and countless other proxy wars and battles. For one East County town, paying tribute is the least that can be done.
The city of Elma hosted a Veterans Day Celebration and Parade on Veterans Day, Friday. The memorial ceremony, which was held at the Elma Veterans Memorial Park, drew a large crowd to commemorate the holiday with a flag raising, speeches from members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the playing of the national anthem from the Elma High School band.
“It’s a day to honor the contributions of the nearly 22 million veterans living today and all those that made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of liberty, justice and freedom for all,” said Rich Angeli, the senior vice chairman of the VFW Department of Washington. “It is imperative that on this Veterans Day we take the opportunity to keep alive the memories, sacrifices and accomplishments of our nation’s veterans. Without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to cherish the freedoms we have today.”
Following the celebration, people gathered outside Elma High School to watch the parade drive through downtown Elma, which featured police cars, classic military vehicles, motorcycles and groups of families carrying posters in remembrance of veterans.
Bill Wickwire, a former Vietnam War Navy operation specialist and current Quartermaster of VFW Post 1948, said the celebration and parade mean a lot to him and the post he represents.
“It’s amazing how much the community comes out and supports veterans, I’m just impressed,” Wickwire said. “There’s a strong family tie to the VFW in this community. The post in Elma has a lot of meaning to me. It was named after my uncle who died on the U.S.S. Arizona (during the attack on Pearl Harbor).”
Wickwire, who also gave a speech during the veterans memorial ceremony to acknowledge Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) veterans, said the community has gotten a lot more involved over the nearly two decades that the VFW has held a celebration and parade in honor of Veterans Day.
“There is nothing more important than honoring the people who fight for your freedoms,” said Mike Conners, an Elma resident watching the parade. “I grew up with friends who served overseas, and their service means a lot to me because I know I wouldn’t be able to do what they’ve done to make my life easier back home.”