BUCKHANNON – The clock striking 11 a.m. Sunday morning marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, which effectively ended World War I.
The time is held sacred as “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” which signified the end of “The Great War” between the U.S. and the Allies and Germany. Armistice Day and Veterans Day are celebrated concurrently.
And although there are many ways to pay homage to veterans and current military members, Mike Wilson, state director of the group Bugles Across America, takes great joy in sounding “Taps,” as he did at the Upshur County Courthouse Sunday morning precisely at 11 a.m.
Although Wilson never served in combat himself, he sees his playing of “Taps” as a way to demonstrate his patriotism and appreciation for veterans’ innumerable sacrifices.
“Anything I can do to honor a vet is precious time well spent for me,” Wilson said.
He, along with almost 700 other buglers across the nation, played “Taps” at 11 a.m. Sunday.
“My service is the [playing] the bugle at funerals and things like today and supporting the vets whenever I can.”
On Monday at 9:30 a.m., city and county residents will take their turns paying tribute to vets publicly with a Veterans Day parade, which will end in Jawbone Park. The Elks Lodge No. 1736 will be serving those who served with a free breakfast kicking off at 7 a.m. and ending at 9 a.m., just in time for parade line-up near the Public Safety Complex and Stockert Youth and Community Center.
In addition, churches and other organizations plan to host or have already hosted free meals for veterans to show their appreciation.
Veterans Day is unique in 2018; the fact that it falls on a Sunday means the holiday is publicly observed Monday, Nov. 12.
But how do veterans themselves want to be honored and recognized by their fellow civilians on this Veterans Day? My Buckhannon talked to a few veterans to find out how they’d like non-military members to honor their commitment and sacrifice.
Here’s what we learned.
Veteran Mary Albaugh is a Buckhannon City Council member who served for four years in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War era.
She said she wanted to join the Army because her brother was in the Army. He was killed in action in Vietnam.
Although the Army recruiter wasn’t there when she went to join, the Navy one was. She liked the idea of serving in the Navy, too, so she signed up.
Albaugh said she’d like veterans in the county to be able to relax and enjoy “their” day, while other residents take up the task of planning an annual parade.
“My dream would be for the veterans’ organizations in Buckhannon not have to plan their own Veterans Day Parade,” Albaugh said. “We invite all the youth groups, and we do all of the organizing and planning for the parade. We get the permits to use Route 20 as the parade route, which we apply for through the Convention and Visitors Bureau. We have to get a permit through the city to have the parade.”
Albaugh said she would like to see folks other than veterans step up to the plate to plan and organize the local Veterans Parade.
“We are the veterans ourselves,” she said. “Who is going to do this when I am gone? We have lost so many of our older guys, and we are trying to get more members to come in. I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road when I am done.
“We hope to get our youth groups who are growing up – those in the American Legion Baseball – and maybe when they come back, they will remember they played American Legion Baseball, and maybe they will remember we supported them and helped them play.”
Al Tucker served more than two decades in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War Era. He was stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War in one of the air bases used to support operations with bombers and fighters.
Tucker said he grew up during the draft, and he received his draft notice like others his age.
“When I got my notice, I went to Pittsburgh to get my medical check-up. I talked to the draft board and asked if I had any options,” he recalled. “It turns out I did. I was going to West Virginia University at the time, and I was in the Air Force ROTC. I had the option of dropping out of college and going into one of the branches of the service or staying in college and getting my commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force.
“I chose to do this because I was already a couple years into college, and I wanted to go ahead and finish. That afforded me the opportunity to finish and get my Bachelor of Science degree.”
Tucker said he thought he would only be in the U.S. Air Force for four years, but he liked it so much, he spent his entire career there.
“I enjoyed it so much that I made a career of it,” Tucker said.
Tucker said on Veterans Day – and every day – he would like to see more people respect the United States Flag and the freedom it signifies.
“I would like to see people have respect for this great country,” Tucker remarked. “The majority of us are good people, and we want the best for everybody. While in the military, we were willing to put our lives on the line. Sadly, I have friends that didn’t make it home. I was blessed that I did get to come home, but I would like for people to appreciate this great country we have.”
Robert Post served in the U. S. Army and the National Guard for a total nine years, six months and 22 days.
He was activated in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis to serve in the U.S. Army. He was in the Army for a little more than a year following his activation.
He said the Dec. 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was what prompted him to join the military. He may have been only 7 years old, but it planted a seed that later grew into a great desire to serve his country.
“I was 7 years old when Pearl Harbor took place,” he said. “When we were bombed, and I observed all the individuals who volunteered for service and active duty to go and fight and win, that is what really started my career of wanting to be a part of the military.”
In the early 1950s, Post joined the National Guard.
“I joined the National Guard in 1952, during the Korean War,” he recalled. “At that particular time, they said the National Guard was going to be called up. That was basically the reason I joined the Guard. Some National Guard units in West Virginia were called up, but our local National Guard unit was not.
“I stayed in the National Guard until 1961. Then, we had the Berlin Crisis and we were activated in the U.S. Army.”
The Berlin Crisis of 1961 begin in June of that year and was a Cold War era conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that ultimately ended in the erection of the Berlin Wall.
Post said people don’t have to wait until Veterans Day to celebrate all veterans have done.
“I consider it an honor to have been in the service, not me honoring but being honored by being in the military,” he said. “I am a true patriot. Patriotism is my thing. I love my country. So, I would like to see people every day showing more respect and honor for their country and not waiting until Veterans Day to show respect and honor for the flag and the United States of America; honor it 365 days of the year.”