ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - More than 60 veterans and their families attended a Veterans Day event on Nov. 10 at Liberty High School in Eldersburg, Md.
The school's USO Club decided to honor local veterans with a program and free breakfast. The students held a car wash in the fall to raise funds.
Most of the veterans, who were in their 60s and 70s, talked about serving on active duty. One wore a jacket with Marine Corps emblems, another vet wore a baseball cap with the name of the USS Thresher - the U.S. Navy submarine lost off the coast of Cape Cod during deep-diving tests in April 1963 in which all hands on board perished. The teenagers listened to their stories and asked a lot of questions about where they served and what they did.
A dozen posters made by the students were decorated with flags and emblems from each military service, many saying simply "Thank You." The students also maintained a large, wall-mounted poster, decorated as a flag, with the names of Eldersburg residents who are veterans or are currently serving.
Liliana Palmer introduced the speaker - her father, Lt. Col. Benjamin Palmer, a native of Kingsport, Tenn. and command surgeon for the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. To her, Veterans Day is to "celebrate Soldiers and veterans and those who sacrificed."
In his comments, Palmer said his research found many local veterans. "In 2015, Eldersburg had 130 World War II veterans, 730 from the Vietnam War, 240 from Korea, 410 from the Gulf War and 350 from the ongoing conflicts. Veterans serve as teachers, doctors, engineers, social workers, community leaders, first responders and elected officials. They continue to serve this country by making positive impacts, building stronger futures, and inspiring future generations to serve."
Off to the side of the podium was a small table. It was decorated with a white table cloth, a red rose, a lemon, a Bible, a lit candle and a single chair. Perhaps the teenagers and teachers did not fully know the symbolism of the POW/MIA table -- an isolated prisoner, blood shed in sacrifice to ensure freedom, lemon representing a bitter fate, a Bible for faith, a lit candle for hope -- but this Vietnam-era veteran did.
The program and breakfast concluded before the start of second period at Liberty, but hopefully the memories of the event will linger with both the students and their local veterans.
Jeff Cotton, a senior at Liberty, summed up Veterans Day for him by saying, "They sacrificed for us so we need to honor and respect our veterans."