“It’s really a special meaning for us to be able to be honored to be veterans, No. 1 — and for people to come out, and for us to have this solemn moment and short program,” said Phil Smith, commander of the Grand Haven American Legion post.
The program — which started promptly at 11 — included a prayer, flag lowering, the reading of poems “Freedom is Not Free” and “In Flanders Fields,” and the firing of volleys and the playing of “Taps.”
“The programs are supposed to take place at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month,” Smith said.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an act approved May 13, 1938, made Nov. 11 in each year a legal holiday — which was then known as “Armistice Day” — in order to honor veterans from World War I. In 1954, it was changed to Veterans Day in order to honor veterans of all wars.
According to Smith, there is a tradition of going down to the flame to have a short ceremony honoring the veterans.
“I believe we’ve been doing it down here at the eternal flame for about 10-15 years,” he said.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Grand Haven post also honored veterans Friday with an 11 a.m. ceremony at Central Park.
“We always do it at the eternal flame and the VFW does it at Central Park at the same time,” Smith said. “It’s important for both organization to do theirs.”
In addition to the ceremony at the park and flame, local veterans made the rounds during the week to educate youth about themselves.
“We were lucky enough to be at a couple of schools this week, and seeing the way kids respond to veterans is a great thing to see,” Smith said.