Students honor veterans
■ 100th anniversary of Armistice Day observed at high school.
Veterans and high school students came together on Monday to observe the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day — the end of World War I — with a community Veterans Day program.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Levi Douthit Post 1674 partnered with Siloam Springs High School to host the program, which was held at 11 a.m. in the Panther Activity Center. Master Sergeant Michael Butler was the keynote speaker and the high school choir and band provided music for the program.
Butler explained that Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I — originally known as the Great War or the war to end all wars — on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The Allied powers signed a ceasefire agreement with Germany at Rethondes, France, at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, according to the Library of Congress website, www.loc.gov. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day the following year, on Nov. 11, 1919. The celebration originally included parades, public meetings and a two-minute suspension of business at 11 a.m.
Armistice Day continued to be observed between the world wars by the United States, Great Britain and France, the website states. After World War II, the holiday was used to pay tribute to veterans of both wars. In 1954, the U.S. designated Nov. 11 as Veterans Day to honor veterans of all U.S. wars, while British Commonwealth countries now call the holiday Remembrance Day, it states.
Unlike Memorial Day, which honors those who have fallen, and Independence Day, which honors freedom, Veterans Day honors the service of all veterans, Butler said.
“Today we honor the contributions and sacrifices of the over 22 million living veterans who have served this country in the name of liberty and justice,” he said. “From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, from Pork Chop Hill (a battle of the Korean War) to the Persian Gulf and so many other far off
and forgotten places our veterans have born the cost of America’s wars and continue to keep watch over America’s peace. Today is our day to stand a little bit taller, and to be recognized by a grateful nation and to appreciate what the few, the very few, have done for the many.”
Butler served in the Army for more than 21 years, starting his career in field artillery before transitioning to the medical field, where he served first as a combat medic and then as practical nurse. During his career he earned numerous awards including Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Order of Military Medical Merit.
After retiring from the military, Butler spent 20 years working in organ transplantation, finishing as the senior clinical coordinator and administratoron-call for the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance in San Antonio. Butler and his wife, Teri, moved to Siloam Springs in 2013 and he currently works as a substitute nurse and teacher for the Siloam Springs School District, a volunteer for the Circle of Life Hospice and quartermaster for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1674.
“In times of danger and in times of peace, it is the selfless dedication of America’s veterans that continues to secure the freedoms on which our great country was founded,” Butler said. “Every generation owes a debt of gratitude to these patrons of the past and of the present, those who set aside personal goals to answer our great call.”
Collectively, the contributions of American veterans have resonated throughout the world, according to Butler.
“Around the world, veterans have broken the shackles of tyranny, unleashed the chains of bondage, established democracies and liberated entire nations from oppression,” he said. “Veterans have lifted the cloak of darkness, oppression, desperation and replaced it with an inextinguishable light that’s the very stem of freedom and liberty.”
Butler encouraged students to offer support and advocate on behalf of veterans and their families, while keeping in mind that their sacrifice allows citizens to live freely.
“There is no nation on earth greater than the United States of America and we owe a debt far greater than we can repay to generations that came before us and for those who will come after us,” Butler said. “I want to thank all of my fellow veterans today for your service. I thank each of you for joining us here today and I especially want to thank those sitting in the student body who may one day follow this old soldier’s footsteps in the honored and proud tradition. Should you choose to do so, I salute you, your path will not be easy but it will be one you will never forget.”
During the program, a video about the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” by Lt. Col. John McCrea was shown and Frank Lee, commander of VFW Post 1674, explained the Buddy Poppy tradition to students.
“The Veterans of Foreign Wars initially sold the Buddy Poppies in remembrance of our buddies who didn’t come home,” he said. “Today as we leave, we have a Buddy Poppy for each of you. Wear it proudly in honor of someone who has given sacrifice so that we may live in a free nation and a free country.”
Students shook hands with VFW Post 1674 member Bennie Gallant, right, and Ron Evans, center, after the community Veterans Day program at the Siloam Springs High School on Monday. Students were invited down to greet veterans after the program and many crowded around to give veterans hugs and handshakes.
Student Nicole Bossler hugged Cecil Nichols, VFW Post 1674 member and high school social studies teacher, after the Veterans Day program at the Siloam Springs High School on Monday. Students were encouraged to greet the veterans after the program.
Master Sergeant Michael Butler was the keynote speaker at the community Veterans Day program at Siloam Springs High School on Monday. The program, hosted by VFW Post 1674, focused on the 100th anniversary of Armistice.