VFW commemorates 100th anniversary of WWI armistice
Whenever a veteran walks into VFW Post 475, he or she walks past the name of Lt. James Allison O’Daniel, a young man who left Newark to fight on foreign shores a century ago and never made it home.
The first Delawarean killed in World War I, O’Daniel died when his plane crashed during a reconnaissance flight over France in July 1918. Newark’s VFW post was named in his honor two years later.
That fact made Post 475 a fitting location to host a ceremony not only celebrating Veterans Day but also marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
“This is a special day in our collective history,” Matt Turner, of Post 475, told a group of veterans and other residents gathered outside the post on Sunday morning.
The ceremony included a moment of silence, the playing of “Taps” and an honor volley fired by the VFW honor guard.
“This is a day to recognize, thank and honor both our fallen comrades and all the living veterans who have honorably served in the military in war time and in peace,” said Tom Kelly, junior vice commander of Post 475.
During the ceremony, members of the Hogs and Heroes Foundation unveiled a statue they donated to be displayed outside Post 475. The statue, which depicts a battlefield cross, replaces a previous statue that was damaged by vandals on Independence Day 2016.
Army Lt. Col. Peter Walton, who served in Desert Storm, Afghanistan and the most recent war in Iraq, gave the keynote address. He said all veterans, from those who served early in America’s history to those returning from the Middle East today, are deserving of the nation’s respect.
“They did not go to war because they love fighting; they went because they wanted to be part of something big,” Walton said. “They went because they were ordinary people who responded to extraordinary times. They rose to the nation’s call for many reasons, but best of all, they came because the nation asked them to.”
He noted that all across the country on Sunday, Americans were pausing to remember the sacrifices of veterans.
“It’s a way we say ‘We remember,’” Walton said. “From the soldiers at Valley Forge to the Doughboys in the trenches of France to the special detachments working in the middle of the night in Afghanistan, we remember and honor them all.”
Newark Councilman Jerry Clifton, who is retired from the Delaware National Guard, recited the World War I memorial poem “In Flanders Fields.”
“On behalf of 34,000 grateful people in the city of Newark, thank you to every one of you for your service,” Clifton said.
Matt Turner, of VFW Post 475, speaks Sunday during a Veterans Day ceremony commemorating the 100th annivesary of the end of World War I.