Bells rang simultaneously at the 11th hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in ’11 throughout the country as America celebrated the day scheduled for honoring our nation’s veterans. Armistice Day, established in the United States to celebrate the end of World War I, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower called on all Americans to recognize the brave sacrifices of those serving our country in 1954, changing the name to what we now know to be Veteran’s Day.
The ceremony held in downtown’s War Memorial Plaza was a time-honored celebration bringing together young and old, as the elder Buffalo Soldiers joined the ranks with the Jr. ROTC in recognizing and honoring those who have served in our armed services in the quest to institute freedom, justice and equality throughout the world. As one young Lt. Colonel put it, “we must realize the sacrifices these men and women have made and continue to make, in order to protect our freedoms here in America as well as abroad.”
The 16-year old Southside Academy student who has served in the Jr.. ROTC ranks for three years says that though he did not particularly care for the program upon first glance, he now thanks God for such a unit that has taught him the life lessons of discipline, honor and respect. “My commander gave me an incentive in the beginning when I didn’t even want to cut my hair which I had been growing for years,” said Marcus Johnson. “However now as one of the highest ranking members present here today, I would encourage any young adult pursuing something meaningful in their lives to give this program a chance, for they will certainly get a lot out of it, including a world view of life and consequences, not to mention having the honor of meeting and knowing these great war-time soldiers who have defended our freedoms time and time again,” says the young Cherry Hill resident.
Also amongst those in attendance was Maryland’s active Army soldier who besides serving his country serves the constituents of Maryland as our two-term Lt. Governor. Anthony Brown took the stage thanking those who have served before him, recognizing those who continue their service today and honoring those who shall come after him. “My own military service has shaped my values as a father and a public official. I’ve tried to raise my own two children with the same lessons I learned in the Army, and I am proud of the work I’ve been a part of to expand veterans behavioral health services and protect scholarship programs for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”
He was later joined by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in laying a reef at the bottom of the soldier statue in front of City Hall. “Veterans Day is an opportunity for all Americans to reflect on the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform,” said Rawlings-Blake. “The City is home to veterans of many past and on-going conflicts. Their commitment to our nation is an example of selflessness and patriotism that I am proud to honor on Veterans Day and every day.”
While a moment of silence was recognized by the participants, as well as many speakers who have been vocal proponents in the advent of this day’s celebratory events, the organization and increase in attendance over the years can be directly attributed to a handful of Maryland leaders. From former state delegate Clarence ‘Tiger’ Davis to current state delegate Melvin Stukes, along with advocate Robert ‘Bob’ Maloney, this year was the first year since former Mayor Sheila Dixon swore-in the first ever Baltimore City Veterans Commission. Baltimore City Council President Bernard ‘Jack’ Young said it best, summing it up with the following statement:
“We humbly pay tribute to the men and women of our military who courageously make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms enjoyed by all Americans,as today’s ceremony represents a tiny fraction of the deep gratitude I feel for the men and women who are called to serve on our nation’s behalf.”
Please be sure to check out this poem honoring Veteran’s Day performed by Navy Chief Steve Shepard yet written by SMSgt. Don S. Miller, USAF (Ret.), found here!
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