World War I centennial focus of Veterans Day

The Spring Valley servicemen's memorial, including the names of the 22 men who died in World War I, reflects a corner of the town that bid them farewell as they went to war. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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Their names were Arthur, Harold, Edward, George and Theodore. 

They never came home again to Spring Valley.

“More than 4 million American families sent their sons and daughters to serve in uniform during the Great War,” related the World War I Centennial Commission website.  “More than 350,000 African Americans served in the U.S. military, as did Native Americans and members of other minority groups. And, for the first time, women joined the ranks of the U.S. armed forces.”

Bells to toll

To commemorate the occasion of the armistice of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, area churches have been invited to participate in the “Bells of Peace” national bell tolling to honor those who served in the Great War, which the United States entered on April 6, 1917.

Tolling of the bells is the traditional way to mark someone’s passing, notes the Centennial Commission, and on special national occasions, bells are tolled in honor of the fallen. Nov. 11 is the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended hostilities in World War I, in which 116,516 Americans died and more than 200,000 were wounded.

This Sunday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. local time across the United States and its territories, communities, houses of worship, military installations, cemeteries and ships at sea — anywhere that Americans gather to honor their veterans — bells will be tolled 21 times as part of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission’s project to remind citizens of their freedoms bought by soldiers long gone on far-away fields. Some places may follow the 21 times with an individual bell for each veteran they wish to honor, stating the name before the toll.

St. Johns Lutheran Church in Wykoff was the first local church to declare that it will participate, but there’s still time for others to commit to the project that’s endorsed by the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion, the National Cathedral and the Society of the Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

Veterans at school

While Spring Valley’s VFW post — the Hanson-Raabe VFW Post 4114, named for George M. Hanson and Theodore E. Raabe, Jr. — has not made any specific plans to mark the centennial of the Great War’s end, area veterans will once again attend a Veterans’ Day program at Kingsland Public Schools. Hanson-Raabe VFW Commander Steve O’Connor noted that on Nov. 9, veterans will have breakfast with the younger grade-schoolers at 7:30 a.m., which will be followed by programs in the gym given by the middle-schoolers and the high school students. 

Also, the American Legion is having a breakfast at the Spring Valley Community center on Veterans’ Day, Sunday, Nov. 11 from 8 a.m. to noon. 

O’Connor thanked the community once more for its epic support of its veterans, be it through the campaigns to raise funds for the renovation of the smoke-damaged Spring Valley VFW Hall, which now has a finished south wall after the Johnny Ringo’s fire last October, or through the respect that is shown them during programs such as at the school.  He remarked that the VFW is cleaning up the renovation debris and setting up tables and chairs to prepare for an open house that will be held in December to express the post’s appreciation for generous donations that have made the recovery process possible in a matter of a year’s time. 

“We’re not used to being the ones asking for help,” he said. “We’re usually the ones who are asking, ‘What do you need?’ so we’d like to welcome everyone to our hall.” 

SV Living program

Finally, the Spring Valley Living (SVL) staff will host a Veterans’ Day event at the Spring Valley Estates Assisted Living on the Spring Valley Living campus at the end of Memorial Drive, inviting members of the community to join them at 2 p.m. on the official observation of Veterans’ Day, Monday, Nov. 12, at 2 p.m.  SVL’s Vera Ndumbe stated that the occasion will be an opportunity for veterans who live at SVL to be honored alongside veterans from the community. 

“We are a contracted Veterans’ Administration organization, and we’re celebrating Veterans’ Day by extending an invitation to veterans in the community to come to the Estates because we want to show that we appreciate their service and let them know that we’re here for them,” she said.