An air of solemnity hung over the Cherokee Nation Courthouse Square Monday morning, as members of the Cherokee County Veterans Council laid wreaths at the base of the Statue of Liberty replica in remembrance of veterans everywhere.
The wreath-laying ceremony kicked off Veterans Day observances Monday, and drew a fairly large crowd.
As the name of a veterans group was called out, a representative stepped forward, laid the wreath, then stood and either saluted or place his hand over his heart.
“We are gathered today to honor the 43 million who have served in the armed forces since the foundation of this nation,” said American Legion Post 50 Cmdr. John Reid III. “We also remember the 625,000 who have died in service to their country.”
According to the Office of Veterans Affairs, in November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day, one year after World War I ended.
The occasion was recognized by Congress in June 1926, and was declared a national holiday in May 1938. In 1954, the word “armistice” was replaced with “veterans,” making Nov. 11 a day to remember all veterans. Later that same year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day proclamation.
Those attending Monday’s wreath ceremony included representatives of the Cherokee County Veterans Council: the posts of the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and their auxiliaries; the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Blue Star Mothers, to name a few.
Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols read a city proclamation in honor of the area’s military members, and Emma Garner, CCVC chaplain, gave the invocation.
The ceremony was followed by a parade and a bean dinner.
“This is a great day for this event,” said Nichols. “The weather looks like it’s going to hold, which is great.”
Nichols did not ride in Monday’s parade, which was a personal choice.
“To me, it’s about the veterans, not politicians. It’s my personal view, which is why I won’t be in today’s parade,” he said.
Co-parade marshals were Jerry Gay and Dennis Parrott. Gay served in the U.S. Army in Korea, and is a member of American Legion Post 135, VFW Post 3707, and DAV Chapter 31. Parrott served in the U.S. Army in South Vietnam, earning two Purple Hearts. Parrott is a member of the DAV Chapter 31 and VFW Post 135.
“I’m excited about being co-parade marshal, but I’ll be glad when the parade is over so I can get some of those beans and cornbread at the VFW,” said Parrott.
Parade entries included floats representing the American Legion Posts 50 and 135, DAV Chapter 31, Blue Star Mothers, and Tahlequah Elks Lodge No. 2601.
To view a photo slideshow of the Monday’s Veterans Day events go to www.tahlequahdailypress.com/photos