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old­est, Harry Pearce, 98.

Wid­does, who dis­charged in June due to in­juries after serv­ing in the U.S. Army air­borne and be­ing de­ployed to Afghanistan, said he joined the VFW be­cause of his fa­ther, who serves as an of­fi­cer at the post. He ad­mit­ted that many of his com­rades-in-arms haven’t de­cided to join vet­er­ans ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions after leav­ing the mil­i­tary, but felt that was an er­ror.

“I just can’t re­late to the peo­ple I hung out with be­fore the ser­vice, be­cause I’m 22 years old and I done and seen things they just can’t imag­ine,” he said. “A lot of my friends (from the mil­i­tary) are lost be­cause they don’t have the link that I do with my dad. They would likely be the youngest mem­ber of a post.”

When Wid­does’ fa­ther, Car­son Charles, dis­charged from the U.S. Air Force after al­most 24 years of ser­vice in 1996, it was an ex­pec­ta­tion to join a group like the VFW or Amer­i­can Le­gion.

“I joined as soon as I got out,” he said. “The ca­ma­raderie con­tin­ues at a VFW and now you have a vot­ing voice.”

Both fa­ther and son said vet­er­ans ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions have to think about how to mod­ern­ize their ef­forts to at­tract younger mem­bers to join their ranks. The younger Wid­does said he’s seen the ben­e­fits of the VFW first­hand.

“The ben­e­fits are here; you get in with the com­mu­nity and some good peo­ple who can help you along the way,” he said.

The cer­e­mony’s key­note speaker, U.S. Army Com­mand Sgt. Maj. Matthew McCoy, who cur­rently leads the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion­sElec­tron­ics Com­mand (CECOM) at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground, said he was hon­ored to speak to Cecil County vet­er­ans on Vet­er­ans Day, say­ing he was “stand­ing on the shoul­ders of gi­ants like you.”

“To­day, we join hands in the name of peace and free­dom and to pay our na­tion’s guard a proper trib­ute, but most all, to say thank you,” he said. “It is their loy­alty to coun­try and their own great courage that make us what we are to­day and what we’ve been for more than two cen­turies.”

McCoy, who earned two Bronze Stars for ser­vice in the War in Afghanistan, noted that while not ev­ery ser­vice­man and woman has fought in Iraq or Afghanistan over the past 14 years, all have con­trib­uted to Amer­ica’s fight to per­se­vere our free­doms. Those who have par­tic­i­pated in com­bat, how­ever, will be for­ever con­nected, he added.

“Vet­er­ans un­der­stand the last­ing im­pact of com­bat in a way that oth­ers do not,” he said. “While we rec­og­nize our vet­er­ans who lib­er­ated Europe seven decades ago, oth­ers to­day are only 19 years old. Sol­diers who fought in Quang Tri 48 years ago and the young men and women serv­ing over­seas right now are of the same fam­ily.”

VFW Post 8175 Com­man­der Char­lie McCoy noted that that there are more than 930,000 World War II vet­er­ans, 1.8 mil­lion Korean War vet­er­ans, 6.8 mil­lion Viet­nam War vet­er­ans, 4.3 mil­lion peace­time vet­er­ans and 5.6 mil­lion Gulf War, Iraq War and Global War on Ter­ror­ism vet­er­ans still liv­ing in Amer­ica to­day who de­serve to be hon­ored by their fel­low cit­i­zens. In Cecil County, some 9,400 vet­er­ans re­side.

“To­day, we salute you all,” he said, prais­ing the sup­port of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

In his first Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony since leav­ing the ser­vice, Wid­does said he was hon­ored by the event in ways for which he wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily pre­pared.

“You pay at­ten­tion to things you wouldn’t have be­fore and the mean­ing is so much richer,” he said. “I get to sit next to my dad at a cer­e­mony that rec­og­nizes the sac­ri­fice from us and oth­ers and it’s very pow­er­ful. It’s some­thing that’s a small town thing, where you can meet the old­est liv­ing vet­eran.”


A vet­eran salutes the Amer­i­can flag dur­ing the na­tional an­them at Fri­day’s Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony in Elk­ton.


Mem­bers of the Amer­i­can Le­gion Ma­son Dixon Post No. 194, of Ris­ing Sun, Honor Guard stand at at­ten­tion dur­ing the Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony in Elk­ton.


Mem­bers of the Elk­ton VFW post salute the Amer­i­can flag dur­ing the na­tional an­them at Fri­day’s Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony.


The Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground chap­ter of the Sergeant Audie Mur­phy Club stands at at­ten­tion dur­ing the na­tional an­them at Fri­day’s Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony in Elk­ton.

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