Veterans Day marked in Niles by American Legion Post 26

Published 12:14 pm Thursday, November 12, 2020

NILES — As the sun began to peek through the clouds for a clear afternoon by 4 p.m. Wednesday, three veterans from the Niles American Legion Post 26 arrived for a ceremony at the Niles Riverfront Park Veterans Memorial.

Odie Stewart, a U.S. Army veteran and commander of the American Legion Post 26, Bob Ahrens, a U.S. Navy veteran and the post’s financial officer and former commander, were joined by Paul Seals, another Vietnam War veteran, and three audience members to commemorate Veterans Day together.

As the short ceremony opened, Ahren led the group in prayer.

“We are gathered here today in the spirit of all of our veterans, wherever they may be stationed in the world,” he said “We are commemorating these moments in honor of them, in hopes that you will please watch over them and bring them back safely, Lord.”

Ahrens also prepared a speech to give to the audience.

“We must never forget the endless months and years of surgeries, amputation and pain that our wounded veterans have had to live through, due to their self-sacrifice for our nations ideals of freedom, liberty and democracy,” he said.

Ahrens spoke of the special requests military members must now sign to serve with their siblings, after the tragic loss of the five Sullivan brothers aboard the light cruiser U.S.S. Juneau. All five brothers in their twenties, George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert were lost in the sinking of the ship, marking it as the largest wartime sacrifice of any single American family, according to the Navy Times.

“Without our veterans, America would not be the America we know today,” Ahrens said. “Our debt to our military heroes can never be repaid, but our gratitude and respect must last forever.”

After Ahrens finished his speech, Stewart spoke about a recent disagreement he had with a fellow veteran. Despite the strong feelings involved in the disagreement, he had a realization.

“In my mind, I knew I would fight side by side with this person during war — or during anytime,” Stewart said. “I feel that way about everybody. For military personnel around the world, and even here right now, being able to stand up as a person means more to me than anything else. Thank you for being here.”

The ceremony ended with a playing of “Taps,” as the veterans saluted the American flag at the memorial. The small group dispersed shortly after, expressing hope in the future more people would be able to attend the commemorations.