American Legion Post 67 holds Veterans Day program

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, November 14, 2023

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VALLEY – Rain of shine, American Legion Post 67 always has a Memorial Day program in May and a Veterans Day program in November. On good weather days, the programs are always in Veterans Park on Highway 29 in Langdale; on inclement days they are indoors at Valley Community Center.

Post 67 always starts their Veterans Day programs at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11. It marks the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. That was the time the armistice ending World War I went into effect in 1918. That time, date and year has been memorialized every year since then. In the early years, it was Armistice Day, a day to celebrate what U.S. soldiers did in the Great War. Following WWII. the day was renamed Veterans Day to honor soldiers from all of our country’s past wars.

With a light rain falling Saturday morning, this year’s Veterans Day program was switched to the Community Center’s Bobby Crowder Room.

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“I had rather be in Veterans Park today,” said Post Commander Lanny Bledsoe in opening the program. “It’s a special place, especially with the four monuments containing the names of 93 young men from the local area who died in our nation’s wars.”

Those men died in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

The most recent death took place 16 years ago. Brandon Hadaway was the crew chief on a helicopter that was shot down in Afghanistan, killing all aboard.

“We pray that no more names will be added to monuments in the park,” Bledsoe said, “but in the world we live in today, we don’t know if that will happen.”

Saturday’s speakers included Valley’s current mayor, Leonard Riley, and its former mayor, Arnold Leak.

“As mayor, I welcome all veterans to the Community Center today,” Riley said. “On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, our nation honors the contributions of nearly 19 million veterans living today and all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of liberty and justice. I want to thank every soldier, sailor, marine, airman and coast guardsman for their service. We are here to commemorate the dead and the living. We commend the loyalty and the courage of many generations of young men and women who have played some role in all our nation’s wars.”

Riley said that Veterans Day wasn’t for veterans alone.

“It’s a day for all Americans to be part of,” he said. “Every citizen has a role to play in carrying on the legacy and burden of freedom. We must be willing to pick them up when they are down, carry them when they are weary, and point the way to new life when they return home. Our veterans deserve our lasting gratitude and respect. This is what this day in all about, honoring our warriors, honoring our heroes, honoring those who gave everything for our all. As Americans, let’s never lose sight of the meaning of today.”

Leak is a decorated helicopter pilot from the Vietnam War. He survived many close calls and lost some good friends in combat. He has some harrowing war stories to tell but preferred talking about America’s role in the world today. 

“Thank you for allowing me to take part in this year’s celebration of Veterans Day,” he told the crowd assembled in the Crowder Room. “I attended a Veterans Day program at W.F. Burns Middle School yesterday and was at a similar service at Fairfax Elementary School the day before. In many ways, talking to veterans is easier than talking to young people. Veterans already know what it means to be a veteran. Indeed, we have our own stories and our own military experiences. We are a band of brothers and sisters bonded by our service. I want you all to know how close to all of you I feel as a veteran whether I know you personally or not. It’s that type of bond that draws us here today.”

Leak said it’s important for the U.S. to maintain a strong military. 

“It’s good to remind ourselves of how special the United States is in world history,” he said. “Our country is an experiment in democracy. The United States is a democratic republic guided by a written Constitution that guarantees inalienable rights that are God given. Our form of government has been paid for by blood and sacrifice. As we grew as a country dedicated to freedom, free of tyrannical controls over our lives, we became a shining light to other nations of the world whose people wanted to be like us, to have personal freedom.”

Leal said the U.S. has a long history of the love of freedom and the admiration of the sacrifices that have to be made from time to time to preserve it. 

“When the world has needed us, we answered the call,” he said. “We were willing to step up. It can be argued that the U.S. was a key force in winning both World War I and World War II. There was a great peace after those two wars, but the world was not safe from the danger of the godless creep of communism that began in earnest in Russia. It was as much a battle for the minds of people as it was a real military threat.”

Leak said it was concerned that we may have fallen somewhat asleep because of the confidence we had in our military and our economy. 

“No one who knows war wants to go to war,” Leak said. “Yet to save our people and the things we love, we must maintain a strong military. No one knows that better than the veteran.”

Leak said that veterans have a continuing responsibility to promote patriotism. He said he likes the words in a country music song by the Zac Brown Band. It’s known as “Chicken Fried,” and its lyrics speak of things widely loved in the U.S. like fried chicken, tea and the everyday things of our lives. The chorus goes, “Salute the ones who died, The ones that gave their lives, So we don’t have to sacrifice, All the things we love.”

“In closing, I find honor in being a U.S. veteran,” Leak said. “We have stories to tell whether we saw combat or not. Show your colors. Wear your hats and shirts. Tell your stories to your families and friends. Be the patriots you were when you served. I’m proud to be a member of the band of brothers and sisters that are the veterans of the United States military. Thank you and may God bless you and the United States of America.”

Post Adjutant Sammy Newton, a Vietnam War veteran, said he had been privileged to know a number of World War II veterans in his time with the local Legion post. One of them, the late John Lyons, was a member of the local Post for more than 75 years. 

“He had to be very young when he joined the local Post after returning from World War II,” he said. “I will be lucky to get in 50 years. I would be in my nineties if I live that long.”

Newton encouraged those who are active with the Post to stay active and to encourage younger veterans to join.

With trumpet solos, Gary Harris opened the program with the National Anthem and closed with Taps.


VETERANS DAY IN VALLEY — American Legion Post 67, which has been active since the end of World War II, celebrated Veterans Day on Saturday wth a program inside Valley Community Center. Speaking to a crowd largely made up of local veterans were, from left, Post Commander Lanny Bledsoe, former Valley Mayor Arnold Leak, current Valley Mayor Leonard Riley and Post Adjutant Sammy Newton.