By Michelle Key
The City of Opelika honored its military veterans in a touching ceremony at Courthouse Square Saturday morning. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, Mayor Gary Fuller spoke of the importance of Veterans Day.
“Today we remember the heroism and sacrifices of those who served,” Fuller said.
The National anthem was performed by the Opelika High School Ovations Chorus.
Dr. Marty Olliff was the guest speaker and gave the audience a brief history on Armistice Day. “We are called upon to remember. Not just our personal memories but societal memories, beyond our own lifetime of events that happened a while ago,” Olliff said. “On the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, the guns that had roared in the most destructive war at that point in history, fell silent. It was that armistice signed 100 years ago that ended combat.”
He spoke of how World War I and World War II changed the way most Americans thought of military service.
“After WWII, military service is something that Americans put on their resumes and take great pride in as part of their self-identification,” Olliff said. “This change in attitude changed Armistice Day.”
Raymond Weeks, a US Navy veteran from Alabama, began a campaign to change the day dedicated to honoring those that served and died in World War I to a day to honor all veterans of all wars. But it was Alvin King of Kansas that helped to secure the new name by working on legislation with his congressman in 1952 and President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law that officially changed the name to Veterans Day in 1954.
Following Olliff’s presentation was a ceremony honoring those that are no longer with us. The “Missing Man” ceremony was led by Marine veteran Matthew Parks and gives honor to those military service members that are no longer able to join their brothers and sisters around the table. From the round table, to the pinch of salt, each element on the table has a specific meaning designed to encourage all to remember those that were lost.
New American Freedom Train Band led by Army veteran Tim Maggart, performed several patriotic songs before the ceremony was closed out with a benediction by Dr. Douglas Pitt.