Ninety-nine years after the signing of the armistice ending WWI, celebrations in honor of Veterans Day took place nationwide Saturday including ceremonies in Helena and East Helena.
67th Veterans Day Parade
It was the 67th Veterans Day Parade for East Helena Saturday morning, taking its traditional route down Main Street to the park and gathering in front of the veterans memorial. Tom Johnson, commander of VFW Post 10010, noted the history of the day, first called Armistice Day and later becoming Veterans Day to honor those in following wars.
“They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting, they rose to the nation’s call,” he said.
Johnson spoke about the extensive but little-known use of horses in WWI, where millions moved artillery and soldiers. Near the end of his remarks he took aim at recent protests taking place during the national anthem.
“Being a citizen and being raised with the family values that I think 99.9 percent of this crowd here was raised, you would concur the flag is a symbol of the country, and we are all Americans and we respect the flag just like we respect our mother and father,” Johnson said. “We’ve shed too much blood and limbs for the flag, and it represents who we are as a country. There’s plenty of ways to voice our opposition, because we have the freedom to do this in this country.”
Lewis and Clark County Veterans Memorial Foundation
A 21-gun salute and playing of “Taps” highlighted the ceremony, which wrapped up with a lunch at the VFW.
Saturday afternoon the Lewis and Clark County Veterans Memorial Foundation hosted a ceremony at Memorial Park in Helena, lining the sidewalks with red flags remembering the fallen.
Retired Col. Ray Reed stepped to the microphone and noted the importance of gathering for Veterans Day.
“This is significant as it recognizes the duty and sacrifices of those that stepped up to serve the great United States often in times of conflict and especially to those that gave their lives to freedom and democracy,” he said.
Guest speaker retired Col. Steve Garrison recounted Operation Desert Storm.
On a Tuesday, reservists learned they were mobilizing and gathered by Thursday, he said. Within weeks, his unit landed in Saudi Arabia, specializing in logistics supplying fuel, water, bullets and mechanical parts.
“We were going up against a large, well-equipped and experienced opponent,” he said. “Many of us knew the Soviet (who trained the Iraqi army) doctrine: logistical units were a prime target and logistical headquarters even more so. Because of all that, several of our soldiers deployed believing they’d seen their home and families for the last time, and would be returning in body bags.”
But the American units were better trained, better equipped and better led, Garrison said, also paying tribute to a Kalispell serviceman that was killed.
The honor guard then fired into the air and a pair of bugles played “Taps” to the roughly 50 in attendance.
American Legion Post 2 chaplain Karen Semple offered the benediction, asking that we remember veterans’ sacrifice and for God to be their shelter and stronghold.