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BIG RUN â€” Sunday, Jefferson County residents gathered at the Big Run War Memorial to honor the annual celebration of the nation's Loyalty Day.
"Loyalty Day has become a permanent fixture on this great nation's calendar," VFW Post 9044 Commander Jim Pallone said. "Though the Communist threat has greatly subsided over the years, Loyalty Day has continued to be a day worth recognizing, to reaffirm the American principles of freedom and democracy."
Previously known as Americanization Day, Loyalty Day is celebrated May 1 every year.
Sunday's program at the Big Run War Memorial, the first for 2012, was dedicated to the memory of James Soliday, who Pallone said "epitomized the word loyalty."
According to Pallone, Soliday gave nearly 30 years of his life to the service of the United States in the Navy and the Marines, and when he came home, Soliday continued to serve in various organizations such as the VFW and the American Legion.
"These and several other organizations have been touched and made better by his loyal service of almost 20 years since his retirement," Pallone said.
Lieutenant Colonel Scott North served as the keynote speaker for Sunday's service.
North has served more than 29 years in the Army National Guard and has received numerous honors, including the bronze star, the combat action badge and seven army achievement medals.
North said he recalled a Loyalty Day in 1981, when he had the pleasure to meet Bob Hope, who was also in attendance.
"What a change in our culture and society, when you had a gentleman like Bob Hope, a giant in the entertainment industry, who was there just as a man, just as a citizen, celebrating and demonstrating his patriotism and loyalty to his country," North said. "For no other reason was he there."
In addition to his title of Lieutenant Commander, North said he is an amateur student of history, and that the United States can learn from the past mistakes of other countries and from America's own history of more than 230 years.
"We have our problems. ... We have the need to fix our system, but I would submit to you not to replace it," he said. "We have a good culture, worthy of pride. We have a good government system worthy of our support. Our loyalty isn't blind. We don't give blind loyalty â€” we give loyalty that's earned, and we participate in the earning of that loyalty."
North asked those in attendance to be involved in the United State government, especially when elected officials do not do the things needed to be done.
"We fix our problems," he said. "We don't need something new; we need to renew. We don't need to change; we need to recharge. We need to return to the path that has served us so well for the past 230 years. ... Our loyalty isn't blind, but we have to validate it and refresh it every day."