There’s been a bit of drama surrounding the cancellation of a community service for Veterans Day this year, and while I agree the lack of a service is disappointing, especially as this year marked the centennial anniversary of the end of WWI, I’m not sure I agree blame should lie with the American Legion.
Let me back up.
Local American Legion Post Commander Ken Piestrak announced two weeks ago there would be no commemoration in the City Park this year because Veterans Day fell on a Sunday. Piestrak said it was too challenging to procure a special speaker, round up the Sound of Silver high school band and organize the annual BBQ luncheon on a Sunday when most folks have other commitments to church or were perhaps out of town.
Piestrak encouraged folks to recognize Veterans Day with their friends, family and at local church programs instead.
But, Bobby Edmondson, retired from the U.S. Navy, observed Veterans Day alone in the City Park, quietly reflecting while he listened to church bells toll. No one else joined him.
That’s a shame.
Edmondson, rightly so, was upset no service was held in the Park. He didn’t buy the story it was “too hard” to organize a program on a Sunday. So, he wrote The Blackshear Times a letter about it, and we published it in last week’s edition. He called for Piestrak to step down as commander of the American Legion Post 181.
I read Edmondson’s letter and I felt bad. I felt guilty no service had been held in honor of our local veterans, and I quickly recognized I should have done more to investigate the issue once I learned the American Legion wouldn’t hold a service.
At the same time, I think it a bit odd the American Legion should even be responsible for planning a service to honor themselves. Shouldn’t others in the community bear responsibility for honoring our veterans? Why should we leave it up to them to celebrate their own sacrifices for our country?
Pastor Appreciation Month is widely celebrated in October, yet pastors don’t treat themselves to a fancy dinner or a new study Bible. No, congregation members donate their own time and money to honor their pastor. When Music Minister Appreciation Day rolls around in April, I don’t plan a special recognition in my own honor. The church handles it.
So, yes, it’s a shame no service was held this year. But perhaps it’s shame on us.
I worked for five years as a news editor in Evans County, covering similar Veterans Day events for The Claxton Enterprise and while there were school programs and a small service planned jointly by the American Legion and the VFW each year, other community groups came together to honor veterans on patriotic holidays, too. The Chamber, Rotary and Lions Clubs were probably the most actively involved, but the honor of veterans was truly a community effort.
Are there any civic groups or clubs here in Pierce County looking for a cause? While unfortunate, this instance provides the perfect opportunity for someone(s) else to take on the responsibility of honoring our veterans appropriately.
A program saluting veterans was held in Atlanta at the Woodruff Arts Center last week and promoted under the tagline, “Inspiring Those Who Inspire Us.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s our responsibility to honor those who’ve served valiantly to protect our freedoms here at home.
We have a year to plan so let’s not be caught unawares 12 months from now. Our veterans aren’t likely to forget the holiday. We shouldn’t have to be reminded to observe it either.
• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.