La Porte marks Veterans Day
La PORTE – On Monday the La Porte Civic Auditorium hosted its 31st annual Veterans Day ceremony.
The Kesling Middle School choir started things off with the singing of “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “America the Beautiful,” followed by a letter from U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly who could not be there in person.
“Fellow Hoosiers, as our nation pauses to observe Veterans Day, I want to take a moment to thank all of our veterans. It is my privilege to work and ensure our veterans receive the care and support they deserve,” Donnelly’s letter read.
Pat Day was then recognized with a plaque for her 25 years of service with the Mayor’s Veterans Committee. Day resigned last year.
The speaker of honor, Vietnam Veteran Greg Baker, a 47-year member of the American Legion, gave an address to the audience. Baker is the current representative for Indiana in the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, or VFW.
“It’s a true honor to be here this morning, in celebration of all who served this great country...those who charge toward issues, not away, never knowing what could be their final moment,” Baker said.
Baker gave a personal history, telling about his father who was in the Army with the 101st airborne during World War II. He combat jumped in the Normandy invasion and also was in Bastogne on Christmas Eve in 1944. He also witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. Baker’s father passed away from a heart attack when he was only two years old. His father’s service was part of his desire to serve in the Army.
Baker graduated from high school in 1966, where he then went on to college at Vincennes University. It was there that he saw the veterans discharged from Vietnam and told himself, “It’s time to serve my country.”
Baker finished training at Fort Sill, then it was on to Vietnam. He spent one year, two months and three days there.
“I stayed over there and took care of business,” he said.
After coming home from Vietnam, Baker got involved with the VFW. He gave some history on the organization, noting their founding in 1899 directly after the Spanish-American War.
“As troops were coming home, some had physical and mental issues, and had nowhere to turn for help. So, some veterans from the Spanish-American War and Civil War got together and started the VFW,” he said.
After World War II the VFW had more than two million members. There are currently 1.6 million.
As a financial organizer, Baker stated that around 85 percent of the money raised goes back to the veterans, be it for medical care or for housing.
He mentioned Burger King in 2004 started a Veterans Assistance fund, which raised more than $11 million, mostly going toward veteran basic housing needs. He also mentioned SportClips, where he gets his hair cut, has a Help for Heros program which has raised $4.9 million.
Baker then addressed the students in the auditorium, telling them of the “Patriot’s Pen” program, which awards scholarships, suggesting students look into the program.
Baker stated there are currently 411,000 veterans from Indiana, or 8.99 percent of the total population, ranking the state the fifth largest in the nation.
“One thing that troubles me as I observed since 9/11, is less than 1 percent of our current national population is serving for our country’s freedoms,” Baker stated in closing.
The La Porte High School Chorale then sang “God Bless America,” followed by the La Porte High School Band, which played a musical tribute to veterans by playing each branch of the military’s service song. Military audience members were asked to stand during their branch’s song, which honored the Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
The ceremony ended with a bang as the Honor Guard fired three rounds each in a roaring gun salute.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day, originally called “Armistice Day,” on the end of World War I, which was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The name was changed to “Veterans Day” by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.