A former Philippi resident who spent 24 years serving his country in an elite military group said Monday that all veterans should be considered as part of a special group because of the sacrifices they made for America.
A 1960 Philippi High School graduate, Tom Hawkins retired from the Navy in 1998 after 24 years of active service as a Seal Team officer, earning the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal. Hawkins resides in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife Carol Hawkins and their two sons and daughter. He told the Veterans Day audience in Philippi that he and his family plan to relocate to Volga.
"It's wonderful knowing that you grew up in a town like this," Hawkins said. "I love it here."
Hawkins spoke about the declining statistics of men and women in service.
"Over time, fewer and fewer people have shouldered the burden, and it's only getting worse," Hawkins said, adding that 1 percent or less of the citizens in America have volunteered to serve. "These are, of course, unbelievable statistics. The average citizen has been asked to sacrifice nothing, and has sacrificed very little."
Hawkins said that distinction alone makes every military veteran part of an elite group. He said that those who have served in the military have lost relationships, spent years of their lives in extreme conditions, spent years away from their children and families and some never made it back. He said that many times, veterans came home to a nation that didn't understand their suffering, their sacrifices, why they fought or that "bad people exist."
He spoke about the history of Veterans Day. He said Armistice Day, originally celebrated in 1919, was a special day to honor veterans of World War I. Hawkins said that in June of 1954, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day to honor veterans of all wars.
Philippi American Legion Post 44 Commander Lloyd Zetty thanked everyone who not only participated in the preparation of the ceremony, parade and luncheon, but also the veterans who fought in our nation's wars throughout the years.
"We kept on serving because we should," Zetty said. "This is the day we honor all the veterans."
Rhododendron Girls' State participants and the Veterans Day pageant royalty were recognized during the ceremony. In a Saturday pageant, Kelsi Griffith was named Queen, and Ashley Luff was named Little Miss Queen.
One accident occurred during parade line-up. Patty Delauder, the president of the Philippi American Legion Post 44 women's auxiliary, was injured in a fall and later transported to a Morgantown hospital to be treated for a broken arm and cuts, officials said.