Veterans parades, ceremonies mark day to honor all branches

A century ago, at the 11th hour of the morning, political officials of both the Allied and German armies met in a forest of northern France to finalize and sign the armistice that would bring peace to war-torn Europe.

Since that time, countries across the world have chosen Nov. 11 to veterans, past and present.

Unlike like Memorial Day, which is set aside to honor the deceased veterans.

Following the end of World War I, Nov. 11, or “Armistice Day,” became a national day of mourning and remembrance in many of the nations.

However, in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the holiday to Veterans Day.

Eisenhower wanted it to be so a “grateful nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this nation.”

This year’s Lycoming County Veterans Day Parade is hosted by the borough of South Williamsport.

Beginning at 2 p.m., the parade kicks off at West Central Avenue and Percy Street and goes down West Central Avenue, turns north at Clark Street and then heads east on West Southern Avenue, ending at Howard Street at Messiah Lutheran Church.

Divisions for the parade will begin lining up at 11 a.m. on numerous streets, including West Central Avenue as well as Percy, Curtin, George and Howard streets.

“We’re hoping residents will cooperate with parking restrictions and traffic delays as we salute our veterans,” borough Police Chief Robert Hetner said Wednesday.

Some 50 parade entrants will be featured, according to Kathryn Fidler, of the parade committee.

Among the honorees is a 96-year-old World War II veteran Ernie Eakin, of South Williamsport, who will be grand marshal.

Eakin enlisted in the Army from 1944-45 and served in the Central European Campaign during the war.

He was recognized for good conduct and received the World War II Victory and Bronze Star medals.

Eakin lives in the same house his father built 100 years ago, which is where he was born.

He is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and enjoys singing, especially the national anthem at Wildwood Cemetery and at the Fourth of July festivities in Lewisburg.

John J. Agnoni, 82, the parade ambassador, served in the Army during the Korean War until 1956.

Among the parade highlights will be a fly-over during the parade by the Buffalo Heritage Squadron. The squadron is a non-profit organization and official wing of the Commemorative Air Force.

Look for members of the 40 Et 8 SOL club; American Legion posts, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, the Williamsport Area High School Band, Boy Scout troops, Gold Wing Road Riders Association, Blue Star Mothers, Jersey Shore Veterans Council Inc., South Williamsport Junior and Senior High School Band, Williamsport Detachment of Marine Corps League and many others.

“This is an annual event held by the Lycoming County Veterans Day Committee,” said Richard Swank, president of the parade committee. Swank is a retired Army veteran, with the military police, who entered the service in 1958 and retired in 1998.

Swank is also senior vice commander of VFW Post 5859, and a life member of the post.

“We love to bring to light what the veterans are doing and continue to do,” Swank said.

They served the nation and contributed their time after service by volunteering their time with VFWs and American Legion posts.

The borough of Hughesville is on schedule for next year, Swank said.

Montoursville also has not had a parade yet, he said.

“We will contact them and the circuit begins with Williamsport and Jersey Shore again,” he said. “It works out every five or six years a different community has a parade.”

As veterans pass away, such as World War I and World War II, who are fast disappearing, the election for officers begins the Monday after the parade.

The meeting will be at the VFW in DuBoistown.

Before the big parade, however, other ceremonies are taking place.

They include a Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Montoursville Cemetery at the Montoursville Veterans Memorial. Veterans will join school students and special guest speakers at the gathering at the southwest corner of the cemetery close to Broad Street.

This year’s scheduled speaker is state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, an Air Force veteran.

The ceremony begins with the presentation of colors, followed by invocation and speeches that are meant to honor war and military veterans past and present.

The Wellsboro Veterans of Foreign Wars Dewey Heichel Post 4907 and American Legion, W. Earle Champaign Post 84, will present the annual Veterans Day Ceremony on “the Green” in Wellsboro at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Tioga County Commissioner Roger Bunn will be guest speaker. U.S. Army Ret. Capt. Frank Yungwirth will emcee the ceremony, which includes laying of a wreath at the veterans’ memorial and patriotic music performed by the Wellsboro Mens’ Chorus.

A number of events will be hosted by the Loyalsock Township School District with events started at the middle school, 2101 Loyalsock Drive, at 8 a.m. and events at Donald E. Schick Elementary, 2800 Four Mile Drive, starting at 8:45 a.m.

A Veterans Day breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. will be held at First Lutheran Church, 400 Main St., Watsontown. The breakfast is free and donations will be accepted with proceeds for the American Legion for the Operation Comfort Warriors Program. Funds are used to purchase rehabilitation and recreational items for wounded military personal. A drawing will take place for veterans to enter to win a quilt made by First Lutheran Social Ministry Committee.

At the Buffalo Valley Lutheran Village in Lewisburg, from 9 to 11 a.m., a concert of patriotic songs will be performed by the Lewisburg Middle School Band, Choir and Orchestra. It is open to all veterans and their spouses.