Veterans Day Ceremony honors vets, families

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Monday, Nov. 11 may have been a cloudy day, but that didn’t stop dozens of onlookers from attending Ithaca’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony in Dewitt Park at 11 a.m.

The ceremony came a week after the 100th annual Veterans Day parade, in which local organications like the Boy Scounts marched and community members lined the streets to show their support for county veterans.

Ask anybody who attended the Veterans Day Ceremony, and they’ll say the ceremony was just as important as the parade for the attention it brings to veterans and their service.

Organized by the Tompkins County Veterans Day Committee, the annual recognition and celebration of America’s veterans included featured speaker Major Thomas P. Cunningham, executive officer for Cornell University’s NROTC Program, the Daughters of the American Revolution and members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 961.

Cunningham shared how it felt to speak at this annual ceremony and to meet and shake hands with veterans and their families.

“I grew up in the New York area,” he said. “I’ve never lived in Tompkins [County], but it’s great to meet all the vets here and get their stories, see all the culture and heritage around here. There’s a lot more than meets the eye.”

Lisa LaDieu, who sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” at the open and close of the ceremony, said she was proud to be a part of the ceremony and bring attention to veterans in her and other’s lives.

“It always means so much to me, and I’m very honored,” she said. “My father was a veteran in World War II, and I’ve been doing this for probably close to 20 years. … I’m just so humbled and pleased.”

Many members of the Ithaca City Police Department were also in attendance, including Chief of Police Dennis Nayor. He said Veterans Day is a crucial time to honor those who risk their lives for America.

“It’s important that we always recognize those who serve, those who have served and lost their lives in the pursuit of freedom,” Nayor said. “For us to all be able to come together today and recognize that and pay tribute to that, I think, is extremely important.”

Nayor said it was an honor to come out and represent the police in the ceremony.

“We represent freedoms and protecting and preserving the constitution domestically,” Nayor said. “To us, it’s just paying respect and representing the freedoms that everyone should have and that we protect and preserve.”

Other audience members shared what Veterans Day and the ceremony meant for them.

“My father served in World War II, and my wife has an uncle that served in World War II, and we came to pay respect to the veterans who served,” Bryn Kehrli said. “It recognizes people who have served their country and put their lives at risk. … I hope [attendees] will never forget what the veterans have done for us all.”

Richard Moran, another attendee, said his father was in World War I, he had five brothers in World War II, and he himself is a marine. His father and brothers passed away, and he said he came for them.

“In honor of what they did for our country and what other men and women have done, it’s really an honor to be here,” Moran said. “It’s all part of our American history. If you look at the veterans today, a lot of them made sacrifices at age 17, age 18 that change your life. And without those people, we probably wouldn’t have the freedom that we have now.”

Gay Huddle, whose father was a WWII veteran, was one of the speakers in the 2014 Veterans Day Ceremony, and she said she came out to show her continued support.

“In today’s world, I think one of the most important things ever is to honor our veterans,” Huddle said. “We stand on their shoulders and enjoy freedom.”

The ceremony was preceded by the third annual Team Red, White and Blue 5K run, hosted by the Ithaca Police Department, which began at 10 a.m. in Dewitt Park. Team RWB is an organization that works to connect veterans to their communities through physical and social activity.

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