MEREDITH — Speakers at two Veterans Day ceremonies held here Tuesday called on a new generation of Iraq and Afghan war veterans to join their local American Legion Post and help the Legion remain an effective advocacy group for veterans.
''Make sure your brothers and sisters in arms are respected. The American Legion once had 3-million members and now we're down to 1.5 million. We need new blood,'' said Griggs-Wyatt American Legion Post service officer and former commander Bob Kennelly at a ceremony held in front of the Meredith Library.
He noted the historic impact the American Legion has had, noting that in 1943 the Legion pushed for what would become the GI Bill, which has provided educational support for millions of veterans and has been one of the most effective government programs ever offered.
Kennelly encouraged non-veterans to join support organizations like the auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion to help ensure that veterans continue to have a voice on public policy.
Later, the Legion Color Guard and those taking part in the ceremony walked to the site of the POW-MIA Memorial at nearby Hesky Park, where they were greeted by Bob Jones, one of those who helped found the weekly POW-MIA vigil which marked its 26th year in August.
Jones said that the Meredith site, which is the state's original POW-MIA memorial, is ''a special place, an important place'' and said that he has been a proud member of the American Legion for 46 years.
He noted that Post #33 has been involved in an effort to locate grave markers of veterans and earlier in the day had placed flags and markers at five veterans grave sites, three from the Revolutionary War and two from the War of 1812.
He urged younger veterans to join Post #33 and said ''veterans organizations are changing for the better. All the veterans organizations are supporting each other and need new members to help with their missions.''
Also speaking at the earlier event held in front of the library were state Senator Jeanie Forester, whose father served with an airborne unit during the Korean War, and Korean War veteran, Master Sgt. Elliott Finn.
Forrester urged those attending to remember when they left to ''thinks of things you can do to make a difference in the lives of our veterans as a way to thank those who put their lives on the line.''
Finn said that there was a reason that those who were gathered at the ceremony weren't speaking German or Japanese and that was because of the sacrifices of those who served in World War II, when 16 million Americans were in the armed services.
He said that there were only 1-million service members left from what has been called the Greatest Generation, which survived the Great Depression and went on to defeat the Axis powers in World War II.
''They're dying at the rate of 250 a day and by 2036 there will be no World War II veterans left. So give those living a hug and thank them for their service,'' said Finn.
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