Gerri Sizemore adds flags to the planters in Fountain Square in preparation for the Veterans Day ceremony, Photo by Heidi Randhava

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A small but heartfelt ceremony this morning honored the country’s veterans. Standing near Veterans Memorial Wall in Veterans Plaza at Fountain Square, Gerri Sizemore acknowledged her colleagues in the Auxiliary of VFW Snell Post 7186, who helped her organize the event.

“We could not have our usual celebration today because of the pandemic,” Ms. Sizemore said, but felt it was important to honor veterans anyway.

Brenda Wilson, co-organizer and member of Women’s Auxiliary of Snell Post, told the RoundTable, “The week before last, Gerri [Sizemore] and I talked about it. And I said, ‘Are we going to do anything?’ and she said. ‘Yes.’ Even if it was just her, she was going to do it. And I said, ‘Well I’ll be there.'”

In the opening prayer, Alexis Richardson gave thanks for those who serve and have served the country “from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to those serving today … for their willingness to serve, for their sacrifices.” She also prayed that veterans hoapitals and the federal Veterans Adminstration would continue to care for veterans.

Melody Bickhem recited her poem “Seal Team Six”

We remember all of you elite men and women

We remember all of the fighting you did,

All of the lives that you saved

We remember all of the training you had

And all that you went through

We remember how very difficult it was

Because you were the chosen few

So now we’ll just remember

And it isn’t difficult to see

That you were very special men and women

And you fought to keep us free.

Looking at the memorial wall bearing the names of deceased Evanston veterans beginning with the Civil War, Mayor Stephen Hagerty noted, “So many generations have been asked to sacrifice for their country.”

Ms. Sizemore, president of the Snell Post Auxiliary, oversaw the traditional laying of the wreaths at the base of the flagpole, where the American flag and the POW/MIA flags still fly at half-staff. Auxiliary member Katherine Bridges, 97, attended the ceremony. The octogenarian is not the oldest member of the Auxiliary; that honor goes to Alice Turner, who will be 101 on Christmas Day and who watched the ceremony from her daughter’s car.

Brenda Wilson, who earlier led the group of about two dozen in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” closed the ceremony with the responsive song “Amen.”

Nov. 11 was first called Armistice Day after the temporary cessation of hostilities in what was then termed “the war to end all wars.” The armistice between the Germany and the Allied troops went into effect at 11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.

Armistice Day became a legal holiday in 1938. Because of the enormity of World War II and the later conflict in Korea, lawmakers decided “armistice” was no longer the correct term for a holiday honoring veterans. Since 1954, Nov. 11 has been a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

The celebration was not without dissent. Displaying anti-war flags, a protester stood silently at the edge of the ceremony.

Veterans Conduct Food Drive for Veterans

Through Nov. 20, VFW post 7186 and American Legion post 42 are holding a food drive for needy veterans. All non-perishables like can goods of any kind, cereal, pasta, coffee, rice, etc., are welcome. Items such as fresh fruit, vegetables and meats, which could spoil, will not be accepted.

These donations are specifically for needy veterans and their families and will be distributed to veterans in Evanston and to Mid West Veterans Closet in North Chicago

Drop-off sites are the American Legion at 1030 Central St. and the Vets Center at 1901 Howard St. Anyone with questions or who knows of a veteran in need is encouraged to email post7186@gmail.com.