PUNXSUTAWNEY — B.P.O. Elks No. 1231 and the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club observed Veterans’ Day a bit early Sunday by unveiling a refurbished flag pole and new stone at Groundhog Park.
The new stone — donated by Philip States and designed and crafted by R.D. Brown Memorials — is dedicated to all local veterans, said Ron Ploucha, exalted ruler of the Elks and the Inner Circle’s Stump Warden.
“Ordinary people doing extraordinary things — simply put, that’s who veterans are,” said Gene Roberts, leading knight at the Elks.
Roberts discussed some of the origins of Veterans’ Day, which was first known as Armistice Day following the end of World War I in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day Nov. 11, and in 1938, Congress declared it a federal holiday, Roberts said. In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans’ Day.
Every veteran has made some sacrifice in some way in his or her life to make sure that Americans can enjoy the freedoms they have today, Roberts said. Years after Armistice Day was first declared, different generations have fought under the same flag. Today, the military is fighting terrorism in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and The Philippines, Roberts said, and it is “as great a challenge our nation has ever seen.”
He reminded guests that veterans are responsible for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to fair trials and the right to vote — not the preacher, reporter, poet, the campus organizer, the lawyer or the politician, respectively.
Ploucha said with the Elks, there is a known saying: “As long as you are a veteran, you will not be forgotten.”
The service included duties by the Jefferson County Veterans’ Honor Guard; the Select Ensemble from Punxsutawney Area High School; senior Mason Stiver performing “Taps;” and food prepared and served by some of Punxsutawney Phil’s Dancer, who will perform at Groundhog Day Feb. 2.
The new Pennsylvania flag for the pole was provided by state Rep. Sam Smith, while the new U.S. flag was provided by U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson.