Veterans Day was marked with four days of ceremonies recognizing those who have served the nation. Ceremonies began on Friday, and ended on Monday; speakers included Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, at Cabot Junior High School South on Monday, and Arkansas National Guard adjutant Maj. Gen. William Wofford speaking Saturday.
Wofford spoke at the Criswell-Robinson American Legion Post 71 ceremony held at the Cabot Veterans Park Community Center.
Other observances were held at Middle School North, Magness Creek and Ward Central elementary schools.
Other guests at the American Legion Post 71 ceremony included state Senator Eddie Joe Williams, County Judge Doug Erwin and county Veterans Service director Sam High.
Saturday’s ceremony turned somber with the addition of a gold star to the Lonoke County service banner, marking the death of Sgt. Jason Swindle of Cabot. Swindle was killed in action in September, while serving in Afghanistan.
Post 71 service officer Allen Miller read the names of those from Lonoke County who have died in the service since World War I.
In his remarks, Wofford credited the people Lonoke County for the strong support shown veterans and those on active duty, pointing the construction of the Cabot National Guard Readiness Center.
Lonoke County’s veteran population of about 7,000 is another tribute to the community, Wofford said. That number is bolstered by the active duty members stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base who also live in Lonoke County, he said.
But, with the high number of veterans and military members, it becomes important to hear their stories, Wofford said.
Wofford recalled that, as a child, all the adult males he knew were veterans of World War II, "the greatest generation."
"My father, my uncle, the neighbors next door … all of them were veterans who served in WWII," Wofford said.
"But I didn’t realize it at the time because none of them talked about it. They didn’t talk about the war. They didn’t talk about their experiences … and they still don’t," Wofford said.
It takes little effort to find the veterans in the community, Wofford said. Most are easily identified by the caps they wear, he said.
"You will see veterans wearing baseball caps saying they are veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam or the era they served in," Wofford said.
Knowing the veterans and hearing them is important for those who enjoy the benefits of the freedom they guaranteed, Wofford said.
"Less than one percent of our nation wear the uniform of our country, who are serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines," Wofford said.
"Tell them we appreciate the sacrifices they make for the other 99 percent who enjoy the freedoms that we have here in this country," Wofford said.
Wofford said he has recently met a number of "heroes" that he did not realize were nearby until he asked them about their experiences. There are veterans of Iwo Jima, the Battle of the Bulge and others who otherwise do not talk about their experiences, he said.
But all veterans who served in the military deserve respect for their service, regardless of whether they served under actual fire, Wofford said.
Wofford said he has found the many of those who served during what is known as the Cold War Era feel they did not contribute as much because they did not see combat and some never served overseas. But their service is just as important, he said.
"You were there during the Cold War… Those who served, me included, can take credit for preventing World War III," Wofford said.
Everyone who has served, regardless of conflict or era, "Hold your head high," Wofford said. "Your service, your sacrifices, have secured the freedom that each and every one of us enjoy every day," he said.
Wofford closed calling for each veteran’s service to be recognized and honored.
"As you see those veterans walking down the street, or in a restaurant, or in a mall, tell them ‘Thanks,’" he said.
"I am honored to be here today. I am honored to serve our country and our state. But each and every one of us should give thanks to God for blessing America," he said.