TORONTO - The nation's veterans were saluted through song and speech during a somber Veterans Day service Sunday at the city's gazebo commons.
The service, hosted by the Toronto American Legion Post 86, included speakers praising veterans of all wars for their service as well as patriotic songs. C. David Rhodes, master of ceremonies and past commander of the Toronto Legion, told those gathered, "We ought to thank our dear Lord for letting us live on his Earth." Rhodes also said the day should be set aside to remember the nation's safety forces as well as "They are veterans in my book."
Susan Clegg, youth director for the Toronto First United Methodist Church, led the invocation, after which Bob Cowles, World War II veteran and Post 86 chaplain, recited the Legion Prayer. The national anthem preceded the welcome by Toronto Mayor John Geddis.
SALUTE TO ALL VETERANS — Lu Ellyn Dallas, Toronto Post 86 American Legion Auxiliary president, described efforts to locate and identify remains of veterans in all wars during Sunday’s Veterans Day services at the city gazebo commons. Veterans of all the nation’s wars were saluted through song and speech during the service. - Mark Miller
"We will always honor those who served this land of hope and dreams," said Geddis, who also thanked veterans for making America "the land of the free only because of your sacrifice."
Lu Ellyn Dallas, Toronto Legion Auxiliary president, described efforts to locate and identify the remains of soldiers missing in action, adding more than 84,000 American veterans from various wars still are listed as missing in combat. She also described efforts to locate the remains of Toronto native Ron Manning, who was killed during the later days of the Vietnam War and whose remains recently had been located and identified using DNA technology. The remains eventually were returned to Manning's family in Toronto.
"No nation in history has ever gone to such (efforts) to (find) the fallen," said Dallas, adding "This is a promise we will keep for all veterans past and present."
Rhodes then described the quiet struggles many veterans involved in combat face after returning home.
"You have a lot of veterans standing here a lot of them stay quiet (about their ordeals)," said Rhodes. "A lot of them don't want to remember what happened to them. I don't blame them."
Rhodes said those currently serving and in harm's way also deserve the nation's support.
"We've got to support them 100 percent," he said. "They are in the military, and they are doing their job. No one will ever tell me our safety forces aren't veterans in their own way."
Kenny Reese, Toronto High School ninth-grader, then read a poem dedicated to the memory of Nathan Rock, a city resident who was killed in combat during the Iraq war. Pat Green, Post 86 commander; John Trifonoff, past commander of the Post 86 Sons of the American Legion; and Dallas then presented wreaths dedicated to the nation's war dead before Goldie Litva, Post 86 auxiliary chaplain, told the story behind taps.
Litva said the song was written by a Union general during the Civil War, who hummed the melody to an aide who later had it transcribed. The song, which is typically played during memorial services and to signify "lights out" at military bases, became popular and was even adopted by the Confederate Army, she said.
Gary McLeish, Post 86 officer, then performed "God Bless the USA" before Cowles asked the Post 86 Firing Squad to perform a 21-gun salute to the dead. Taps, performed by Toronto High School students Shane Sears and MyKenna Risler, closed the ceremony. Additional ceremonies later that day included the placing of wreaths at the Legion Post's war memorial.