At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the century’s 11th year, dozens of local veterans and residents of the Roxborough community gathered at Gorgas Park to shake hands, salute and give thanks to the generations of veterans who served, and are currently serving, our country.
The ceremony, hosted by the 21st Ward Veterans Association, kicked off promptly at 11 a.m., to commemorate the official end of World War I through the signing of the armistice at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918.
Many in the crowd sported red and blue military jackets and caps as they observed the services in front of the park’s refurbished 1920s War Memorial, which honors veterans from World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War.
“This is about peace and goodwill, to be prayerful and mindful of how we got here today and how we need to stay here today, in a good situation, preserving the freedoms of our country,” said State Rep. Pamela DeLissio (D-194), whose district includes Manayunk and Roxborough, as she addressed the crowd.
“It’s a day that people don’t think about; they think about Memorial Day and they think about some other days but this is truly a day to honor our veterans,” said John Boyce, President of the Friends of Gorgas Park.
For Vietnam veteran and Manayunk native Stanley Koszowski, the ceremony was about camaraderie.
“I come from a military family, my father, my cousin, everybody served in the military,” Koszowski said. “It’s something you’ll never forget and it’s like a brotherhood; we all bond together more than civilian people do.”
Bruce Hoffman, President of the 21st Ward Veterans Association, said President Obama’s recent call for all troops to be out of Iraq by the end of December reinforces the notion that now, more than ever, veterans need the community’s support.
“They’re coming back to very rough times,” Hoffman said. “It’s an extremely difficult economy for veterans to come back to, I mean, it’s extremely difficult for even [civilians] to keep their own jobs.”
This week, the U.S. Senate passed the veterans jobs bill which would offer tax credits to companies that hire unemployed veterans. While the bill still needs approval from the U.S. House of Representatives to move forward, Hoffman said it’s a step in the right direction.
“It’s baby steps to get there but every little bit helps to try to get the vets back on their feet,” he said.
The half-hour ceremony consisted of a call to colors, a wreath laying ritual, a benediction and a heartfealt plea from Hoffman.
“Now go out there and thank a vet,” he said. “Most veterans are quiet, reserved people, they don’t say anything, they just fly under the radar but they do appreciate that acknowledgement that they served honorably and made a sacrifice.”