Veterans Day ceremony held in Greencastle
"Thank you for your service" are not just words, according to retired U.S. Navy Commander Steven Oliver.
The speaker at Greencastle's Veterans Day ceremony on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month had lined up lots of information to share about the observance that began as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, on the first anniversary of the end of World War I.
"I was going to go into all kinds of factoids, but you probably know them," Oliver said, casting the list aside as he spoke about what it means today to recognize veterans.
Whether someone served "a day, a year, 10 years or 20 years ... to me, every day is Veterans Day," Oliver said at the ceremony held at the Greencastle-Antrim's veterans monument and memorial outside borough hall on North Washington Street.
Oliver didn't know what he wanted to do when he got out of high school in 1975. He saw a poster that said "Join the Navy, see the world" and that's what he did during a 28-year career that included service in Kuwait and Iraq.
In retirement, he drives a school bus.
"Sometimes the kids getting off the bus say 'Thank you for your service,'" Oliver said.
"Every time someone says 'Thank you for your service,' I think it's so cool — they are not just words," said Oliver who was invited to speak by his friend Mike Blank, commander of Greencastle's Harry D. Zeigler Post 6319. The two men served together in the Navy for many years.
One veteran who heard "Thank you for your service" often after the ceremony is 98-year-old Chester "Chet" Williams, who served with the U.S. Army infantry in the European Theater of Operations during World War II, earning two Purple Hearts among other commendations.
Many people made it a point to greet Williams as he sat in the passenger side seat of a pickup truck strategically parked so he could watch the ceremony. His son, Larry Williams, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, stood next to the truck.
The pair are fixtures at the community's Veterans Day observance sponsored by the VFW and Frank L. Carbaugh American Legion Post 373. When the in-person outdoor Veterans Day service was washed out by rain in 2020, they sat in the kitchen, listening to the program that moved to WRGG radio and drinking coffee purchased with $10 sent to them by a friend to thank them for their service, Larry Williams recounted.
Asked what he would say if giving a speech on Veterans Day, Chet Williams said, "I'm thankful we've got this kind of country to live in."
On the younger end of the spectrum, Beth Stager, a retired U.S. Army master sergeant, pulled her granddaughter, 6-year-old Berkeley Been, to the ceremony in a wagon.
"It's so she learns all about duty, honor, respect and all those things that come with veterans and military service," Stager said.
Oliver commended the Greencastle-Antrim community for its recognition of veterans and those currently serving in the military with the 230 Hometown Hero banners that line the streets. They speak to Greencastle's patriotism and love for its veterans, according to Oliver.