ALPENA - Local veterans organizations will gather at an Alpena cemetery on Veterans Day to honor those who served.
On Monday at 11 a.m., Alpena County Veterans Director Dan Cox will lead a ceremony at Little Flanders Field, behind Evergreen Cemetery Chapel on Washington Avenue. Veterans Council President Thomas Keen said the day is the one time of the year when the men and women who served in the armed forces are recognized, especially those who saw combat. As more and more come home from recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, public appreciation of veterans has increased.
"Actually, now they do recognize veterans more, but for older folks like Vietnam, Korea, World War II and World War I veterans, people didn't recognize them as much," he said. "It's more publicized now. In fact, they used to say Vietnam and Korea were the 'forgotten wars.'"
Veterans Day marks the anniversary of the cease-fire that ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Treaty of Versailles wasn't signed until June 28, 1919, and that year the "11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" was designated by Pres. Woodrow Wilson as Armistice Day. In 1938 Congress declared it a legal holiday, and in 1954 the name was changed.
The Rogers City Veterans of Foreign Wars post will also hold a Veterans Day ceremony in front of the courthouse, 151 E. Huron Ave., at 3 p.m. Monday.
Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center Commander Col. Bryan Teff is set to speak at the ceremony, and representatives from every organization on the Veterans Council will lay a wreath, one for each war. Three other wreaths will be laid, one for prisoners of war and the missing in action, another at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and one honoring those affected by the toxic defoliant code-named Agent Orange.
What: Veterans Day ceremonies
Where/When: Alpena, 11 a.m., Little Flanders Field, Evergreen Cemetery, Washington Ave.
Rogers City, 3 p.m., Presque Isle County Courthouse lawn, 151 E. Huron Ave.
Cox will also introduce Leonard Johnsen, the Veteran of the Year, Keen said. He'll be recognized as an outstanding veteran who stays involved in the community. Johnsen puts flowers in at Little Flanders Field, along with keeping it mowed and fertilized, all at his own expense. He also fills in for a local veterans' honor guard when needed.
Johnsen said he's honored to represent veterans on Veterans Day. He served in the United States Air Force from 1955 to 1959, and is now involved with the American Legion and AMVETS. Johnsen is also part of the Civilian Emergency Response Team, the local Civil Air Patrol and is an amateur radio enthusiast.
"I'm very humbled, I'm honored that the Alpena Veterans Council nominated me for the Veteran of the Year," he said.
On Veterans Day, Johnsen said anyone who sees a veteran should thank them for their service and shake their hand. The nation owes it to those who served before or are serving now.
"They're giving us our way of life," he said.