“One hundred years ago the Great War ended and the American Legion began.”
On Nov. 11, 1918, the Great War ended; and on 11 November 2018 American Legion Dyer-Gunnell Post 180 honored veterans with a moving and well-attended ceremony. Speakers for the 100th anniversary of the “war to end all wars” and the American Legion’s birth included the mayor of Vienna, Laurie A. DiRocco; the 35th District delegate to the Virginia House of Delegates, Mark Keam; and Maj (ret) George Creed, Vietnam veteran and brother of a naval aviator missing in action in Laos.
Sons of the American Legion Squadron 180 and the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 180 Juniors assisted with placement of the flags, touching readings, sounding of Taps and honoring of the POW/MIA Empty Chair.
Jason Feimster, Post 180 commander, provided opening remarks reminding all that veterans unselfishly placed their lives on the line for our freedom. "Those men and women were ordinary people… until they heard the call of duty and answered it. They left their families … their homes … and their lives … not for recognition or fame or even the honor we bestow upon them today. They fought to protect our country … to maintain our way of life."
DiRocco thanked all the veterans present for their service and all those present for their attendance. She also spoke on the importance of the close reciprocal relationship Post 180 and the town of Vienna have always maintained.
Keam also thanked the veterans for their service and all those present. He provided remarks helping the audience understand the context of Veterans Day in relation to Memorial Day. His main point resonated with the audience, specifically that Veterans Day has a different focus than Memorial Day. Both honor veterans who gave their all in the service of freedom, but Veterans Day is also about building and maintaining an understanding among all Americans that the cost of freedom in blood and sweat has been and continues to be high, and that the cost is born by both veterans and their families, whenever, whenever and however they serve. He then spoke of the critical role of veterans in keeping America free.
Keynote speaker Creed then spoke about the history of Veterans Day as it evolved from Armistice Day. After placing this national day for honoring veterans in its historical context, he spoke of his USAF career and his involvement in championing Congress on America’s Prisoners of War and Missing in Action.
He casually spoke of being a supply officer in Vietnam in a nice seaside town. He, however, could not stroll through the town, because his name was on the top of the local Viet Cong hit list. It got there because he was instrumental in closing down an operation stealing batteries, used in grenade launchers to attack US forces, from the base warehouse.
He remembered the day President Kennedy was assassinated, and that it was also a day he and his wife visited his brother, a cadet at the US Naval Academy. His brother became a naval aviator and was also sent to Vietnam. Unfortunately, his brother was shot down in Laos. Rescue helicopter crews were able to contact him, but due to heavy enemy fire, could not reach him. Creed eloquently highlighted the emotions felt by all too many families of POW and MIA service men and women as he described his efforts to learn more. His brother was never documented as having reached the Hỏa Lò Prison, referred to as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by its POWs, and remains Missing in Action.
The major recounted how, while still on active duty, he was asked to the White House to tell his family’s story and how he had been engaging Congress to resolve all POW and MIA cases. His listeners told him his efforts were very helpful and they asked him to continue lobbying Congress on this crucial issue.
Many attendees and VIP guests remained after the ceremony for the luncheon. They commented on both the wonderful ceremony and the exceptional food and staff’s hospitality. Overall, this ceremony set a new benchmark of success for future ceremonies!