Veterans Day message: Find common ground
HUNTINGTON — The best way to honor veterans is by helping out in the community and respecting people with whom we disagree, said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, West Virginia’s adjutant general and head of the state’s National Guard.
Hoyer was the keynote speaker on Monday at the Veterans Day parade and ceremony held in Huntington, where he issued a challenge for West Virginians to be positive examples for the rest of the country. Veterans don’t want us to sit by and take our freedoms for granted; they want us to take action and be leaders within the community, Hoyer said.
“Find somebody that we don’t think we can absolutely ever agree with ... and find common ground,” he said. “Our enemies today don’t just want us to have our tanks not fire or our airplanes not fly. They want our families to be broken, our communities to be crumbling and for us to be divided.”
Nearly a dozen veterans showed up at the annual event, held on the grounds of Huntington’s Veterans Memorial Arch, near the intersection of 11th Avenue and Memorial Boulevard.
Freezing rain and cold weather delayed the ceremony by a few minutes, but it wasn’t enough to dampen the importance of what the day represented, said Fred Buchanan, chairman of the Veterans Committee for Civic Improvement.
“Within each of us lies the American spirit, a burning desire to dedicate and commit ourselves to the American ideals of freedom,” Buchanan said. “This desire is deep within the heart and soul of each soldier, sailor, marine, coast guardsman and airman. It is undaunted by weather conditions, living conditions or hardship of mission.”
Buchanan spoke about the symbolism of an empty table and chair at Monday’s ceremony, representing those missing in action or made prisoners of war during America’s armed conflicts.
The table displayed a red rose, representing the blood shed during wartime, and a lit candle guiding a way home for those missing in action. It also contained a single slice of lemon sprinkled with salt, symbolizing the bitterness of war and the salty tears that follow.
“Through all the these periods of war and American history, one question remains unanswered. Where are our brothers, our prisoners of war, our missing in action veterans?” he said. “This is not an absence of choice, but rather one that emulates duty, honor and country.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, said America is one of the few countries in the world with enough compassion to help out when we are needed.
“When Old Glory flies around the world, the whole world knows, it’s a better place and they can count on us,” Manchin said.
He noted that West Virginia is one of the states with the highest number of veterans per capita. West Virginians make up the largest share of names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., he said.
“We’ve fought in more wars and conflicts, shed more blood and lost more lives for the cause of freedom than almost any other state,” he said.
Sunday was officially Veterans Day, marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Monday’s ceremony and parade was sponsored by the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District and the Veterans Committee for Civic Improvement.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.