Alan R. Beaty, a former Marine Corps sergeant and veteran of the Iraqi War, was the featured speaker at Monday’s Veterans Day observance at the War Memorial Building in Oneida.
And his brief address — in which sacrifice was the key word — was well received by a crowded audience of veterans and their family members.
Beaty, a resident of Winfield and an advocate of the Wounded Warrior Project, managed to get his message of sacrifice across in relating both the history of Veterans Day, as well as a personal experience he had during his final departure from the war zone.
In outlining the origin of Veterans Day, he told of soldiers on the battlefield in World War I awaiting the cease fire signal, which would occur on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.
But as the minutes ticked away, he said, the fighting continued. He said a soldier by the name of Pvt. Henry Gunter, who was charging a German machine gun nest, was killed at 10:59 a.m., one minute before the war ended — the last American to die in the war.
“I like to think of a particular veteran who has sacrificed all when giving a speech on Veterans Day,” Beaty explained.
Later on in his address, Beaty talked about his final departure from the war zone in Iraq, when he was airlifted out in a Marine Corps Osprey, which he described as a crash-prone “half-helicopter, half-airplane.”
He told of the plane landing in Bagdad on the way to Kuwait, where it picked up a flag-draped coffin with a fallen comrade in it. A bench was removed across from where Beaty sat and the coffin was put in its place.
“And I spent three hours with it. I never knew the soldier’s name, never knew the reason or method of his death, but I knew the sacrifice,” he stated.
“I reflected on that over the next three hours. What it meant to serve your country and to give all, and most important, what it meant to his family . . .
“When I think of Veterans Day, I think of sacrifice,” he said, not just for the men on the battlefield, but soldiers everywhere.
“They sacrifice time. And you can’t get time back,” Beaty said.
The 30-minute Veterans Day observance, hosted by America Legion Post #136, also included remarks by Post Commander Ron Keeton; the singing of the National Anthem by Brandon Ryon, “Taps” played by John Beaty; and opening and closing prayers delivered by Post Chaplain J. C. Reynolds.
In addition, a trio of Boy Scouts presented the colors and led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the Veterans Day observance.