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Crowd unites in respect for veterans
Bugler Nathan Dickey plays "Taps" at the end of Sunday's observance of Armistice Day and Veterans Day at Veterans Park of Effingham County. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Those men and women were ordinary people until they heard the call of duty and answered it.
CSM Ronnie Perryman (Army, Ret.)

SPRINGFIELD — It was an event 100 years in the making.

A crowd of patriotic citizens gathered at Veterans Park of Effingham County on Sunday to observe the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice and Veterans Days.

"The one hundredth anniversary of the armistice is a mark that we often forget because we do have Veterans Day — which is a good thing — but the armistice is important because that was a terrible war," Ruth Lee said. "They hoped that would be the end of wars but little did they know."

More than nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a result of World War I, which was described at the time as "the war to end all wars."

"It's a special day that I remember because my father served in the Army in World War I," Lee said. "He had the misfortune of being on a ship that was torpedoed just before they got to England but they fished them out of the water and he finally ended up going to France. He didn't fight in the awful battles but he was there."

Armistice Day is commemorated annually to mark the cessation of hostilities between the Allies and Germany on the Western Front on Nov. 11, 1918. It went into effect at 11 a.m. — "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month."

More than 116,000 Americans were among World War I's victims. There were 58,220 combat deaths. The others resulted from disease and other causes.

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill to change the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all American veterans.

After her brief remarks, Lee asked members of the audience to stand if they had ancestors who fought in World War I. Several responded to her request.

Next, veterans in the crowd were saluted with a musical tribute. Each stood at the playing of their service's familiar song, including "Anchors Aweigh" for the Navy, "The Caissons Go Rolling Along" for the Army, "The Wild Blue Yonder" for the Air Force, "The Marines' Hymn" for the Marines and "Semper Paratus" for the Coast Guard.

The veterans' spouses were also recognized before guest speaker CSM Ronnie Perryman (Army, Ret.) took the podium. 

"... We honor all our veterans who unselfishly placed their lives on the line for our freedom and for the protection of this great nation," he said. "Those men and women were ordinary people until they heard the call of duty and answered it. They left their families, their homes, their lives — not for recognition, fame or even the honor that we bestow upon them today. They left to protect our country and maintain our way of life."

Perryman encouraged everyone in the crowd to exercise the freedoms veterans have fought for more than two centuries. He urged citizens to vote and support veterans organizations like the VFW and American Legion.

"Veterans Day isn't just for veterans. It's a day for all Americans," Perryman said.

Citing instances of America's global influence, Perryaman said people around the world have ample reasons to observe Veterans Day, too.

"Our veterans are why are country is as great as it is today and why some other countries are in a better way than they could have been," he said.

Sunday's event closed with the singing of "God Bless America," led by the Rev. Ralph Long, and the playing of "Taps" by bugler Nathan Dickey. It also featured the Effingham County Junior ROTC Color Guard and Boy Scout Troop 295 of Guyton. 

Major Danny L. Burgstiner (Air Force, Ret.) served as master of ceremonies and the Rev. Cliff Coursey and offered the invocation. Effingham County Commissioner Roger Burdette offered welcoming remarks.