Monday marks the 100th anniversary of when President Woodrow Wilson first declared a commemoration of the end of World War I, which had occurred a year before. It was hoped it would be the war to end all wars, but that unfortunately was not the case.
But what has never wavered has been the constant defense of our nation by the most dedicated of people, and Veterans Day is a time to laud men and women for that service.
Indeed, this community in particular has much to be thankful for. St. Mary’s would be nothing like it is today if not for the important work accomplished every day by the more than 22,000 employees at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, as well as by all of the defense contractors who support it.
This is in large part a military community — and not just because of the Navy. Our area is home to many men and women who have also served in the Marines, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard.
So the celebration of Veterans Day is no perfunctory exercise here. It’s much more than pomp and pageantry. It’s appreciation for the military straw that continues to stir the economic drink here, and respect for all that it took — and takes — to maintain those high standards as the acknowledged hub of naval aviation.
Since 2001, the observance of Veterans Day has come into even sharper focus. It is no longer just a tribute to those who served in peacetime or in wars past. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 (in which nine Southern Marylanders were killed), and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed, have made clear once again the risks and costs of answering the call to service. People in St. Mary’s genuinely and deeply understand this.
In honor of all this, in today’s edition you’ll find a special section dedicated to Southern Maryland’s veterans. Along listings of special events, you will find compelling stories about:
• Local veterans reacting to proposed changes in the regulations about who can be buried at Arlington National Cemetery;
• Veterans furthering their education through local colleges;
• Assistance for African American veterans in Southern Maryland;
• Officials warning about false charities targeting veterans, in light of a recent fraud case in the area;
• How the Maryland Veterans Museum allows those who served once to serve again;
• Fishing trips that help provide a respite for veterans;
• Southern Maryland veterans of the U.S. Air Force who have found their way to success during and after their tours of duty; and
• A former Marine’s star-spangled salute to all local veterans.
And while we hope you will read and enjoy our special section in today’s edition, we also invite you to get out and salute our veterans at special events.
In Leonardtown on Monday, the annual Veterans Day parade will start at 9:45 a.m. at St. Mary’s Ryken High School and move up Fenwick Street. Immediately after the parade, there will be a ceremony in the town square in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II. Then, wreaths will be laid at the memorials in the square. If it should rain, the parade would be canceled, and the ceremony will take place inside the town hall at 22670 Washington St. in Leonardtown. The decision about cancellation would be made by 8 a.m. Monday, and a notice would be posted on the town’s website (www.leonardtown.somd.com) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/TownofLeonardtown/) pages as well as at www.stmarysmd.com.
The Veterans of Helen will host its 34th annual Veterans Day observance program Monday at 2 p.m. at the monument site in downtown Helen, near the intersection of routes 5 and 238. All veterans and active-duty military are invited to attend and join the ranks of fellow veterans to be recognized.
Also, the bells at St. Clement’s Island Museum and Piney Point Lighthouse Museum will toll Monday at 11 a.m. to honor the 116,516 Americans, including the 27 St. Mary’s County natives, who died in World War I.
So attend a local Veterans Day event if you can, but at the very least take a few moments Monday to honor local veterans and reflect on their many sacrifices to allow us to live our lives as Americans. If you see a veteran in the grocery store or elsewhere in your daily travels, thank them for their service. It may mean more to them than you could ever realize. And if you feel moved to do so, put a flag out so others know how you feel about those who served.