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.