EFFINGHAM — Ninety-five years ago Monday, Allied and German generals signed an armistice to end what was then known as "The Great War."
President Woodrow Wilson called it "the war to end all wars," but Wilson was proven wrong again and again.
Monday, dozens of people gathered in a cold rain at the Effingham veterans display to mark what is now known as Veterans Day.
"On Veterans Day, we honor every man and woman who has proudly worn the uniform and bravely defended our nation while protecting America from the evils of this world," said keynote speaker Bill Copple of Effingham American Legion Post 120. "Though only a relative few have served, every American, no matter where they live, reaps the benefits of their sacrifice."
Copple acknowledged that times have changed since Nov. 11, 1918.
"In today's world of information overload, with 24-hour cable news stations and social media sites, it's easy for people to get wrapped up in other news and events and forget the importance of not only this day, but the direct impact that veterans have had on their lives," he said.
But Copple urged the crowd to think about what might have happened without the sacrifices that veterans have made over the years.
"You know your life today would be vastly different without their courage and sacrifice," he said.
Copple said present-day military personnel should be remembered, as well as veterans from previous generations.
"...we must not forget the thousands of our best and brightest who are currently deployed all over the world defending our freedoms," he said. "We pray for their safe return, and we stand ready to support their families while they are away."
Copple urged the crowd to support this generation of returning veterans.
"...it's our responsibility to make sure they're cared for now that the mission is almost over," he said.
Copple noted that local veterans organizations, such as the American Legion, VFW and Disabled American Veterans, have been intensely lobbying for assistance to those veterans with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. He also said that today's returning veteran deserves access to adequate health care.
He told the crowd how they could help.
"They have earned the right to be treated with dignity and respect," he said. "You can help make sure that happens by pushing America's leaders to do the right thing when it comes to America's veterans... We can never let up.
"We can't give up the fight and throw in the towel because our veterans never have," he said. "As grateful and patriotic citizens, it's the least we can do in return."
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at email@example.com