PIQUA — Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day, and local veterans, city officials, and residents braved the cold to honor veterans and their sacrifices for the United States.
Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day, which recognized the formal end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954, recognizing all veterans and their service for the country.
Senior Vice Commander Tim Siders of the VFW Post 4874 was the master of ceremonies during the ceremony at the Piqua Veterans Memorial on Sunday, and he introduced keynote speaker Jim Harter, an Iraq/Afghanistan USMC veterans and commander of VFW Post 4874, who hoped to “give voice to what it means to be a veteran.”
Harter asked who among the the crowd at the ceremony was a veteran and said, “I want to personally say, ‘Thank you.’”
Harter, whose father is also a veteran, grew up in a military family and said that because of that, “You’re raised a little bit different than the average person.” Harter learned an attitude of selflessness and sacrificing for others, saying, “It’s always for somebody else.”
Harter was eager to serve his country, which prompted him to join the U.S. Marine Corps. “I was thirsting to do something for my country,” he said.
During one of his deployments, Harter was rushed back to the U.S. on an emergency Red Cross flight after his son was in a car accident and was not expected to survive his injuries. “He ended up pulling through,” he said. Harter recognized his father and brother for being there for his family during that time.
Harter was also kept from going on a third deployment due to an injury he sustained during boot camp and for which he needed surgery. During that deployment, Harter said, “One Marine was killed … it happened to be my best friend.”
Upon returning home and to his previous job before his time in the Marine Corps, he ended up internalizing his experiences. Harter explained his difficulty adjusting to civilian life, saying that he had returned to the U.S. and was changed and affected by his experiences, but his family and friends were still the same people as they were prior to his time in the Marine Corps and who were not there for those experiences.
“I didn’t talk about that,” Harter said of losing his best friend and his other experiences. “I was lost after I got out of the Marine Corps.”
He ended up attending college, where a teacher at Edison State Community College encouraged Harter to talk to a few people from the VFW who were at Edison one day giving out free pizza. Harter ended up connecting with them, and he said that those five minutes talking to them changed his life.
“I became a life member,” he said about the VFW. With their help, Harter said, “I’ve learned about it means to be a veteran.”
Harter learned that he “can keep giving” and speak to citizens about what serving in the military is like and also about what kinds of sacrifices veterans have made for their country.
“We’re all still under oath to protect our country … to be faithful to our country,” he said.
Also during Sunday’s ceremony, the Piqua High School Band performed the national anthem and another musical selection, and the Veterans Elite Tribute Squad fired a salute at the end of Harter’s keynote speech. Korean War veterans also placed a ceremonial wreath and yellow rose during the ceremony, and Chaplain Steve Mullikin of VFW Post 4874 gave the invocation and benediction of the ceremony.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org