By Kellen M. Quigley

Despite the cold temperatures and flurries in the air, veterans of the United States Armed Forces were honored in Ellicottville Monday during annual Veterans Day ceremonies.

Headed by the Ellicottville American Legion Post 659, veterans and community members alike gathered outside the Ellicottville Town and Village Hall at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, signaling the 101st year since the end of World War I.

Legion Commander Dale Dunkleman lead the ceremony, siting several historical events over the past 100 years, including thousands of veterans camping out in Washington, D.C. in 1932 which led to two murders and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the G.I. Bill into law.

“It took the horrific cost and bloodshed of World War II to remind many Americans just how great a debt is owed to our veterans,” he said. “What (Roosevelt) and many others failed to realize at the time is that veterans were not asking to be part of a ‘special class.’ They just wanted a shot at the American dream they fought so hard to defend.”

Over the years, Dunkleman said many veterans endured long separations from families and friends, serve in all kids of extreme weather and even lose their lives because they believe the nation was important enough to defend.

“Warriors need advocates, and that is why the American Legion exists,” he said. “We are here to serve veterans, their families and our communities.”

Dunkleman said those who defend the country from enemies must be supported, regardless of where or when they served, as civilians must serve those who serve, even when the guns stop firing.

He said the American Legion shows support to veterans through support networks, scholarships, financial assistance and other programs. He said veterans don’t ask for much, but benefits are “a mere drop in the bucket” compared to the cost of war.

“While not all veterans see war, all who served in the military have expressed a willingness to fight if called to,” Dunkleman said.

Dunkleman also mentioned homelessness and unemployment as two major issues that disproportionally affect veterans. “We can do better. We must do better,” he added.

While Dwight Eisenhower was said to have been prouder of his military service than as president, and that pride in veterans is on display on every obituary page in the country, Dunkleman said fewer than 10 percent of Americans can claim to be veterans, and fewer than 1 percent currently serves in the military today.

“Veterans have given us freedom, security and the greatest nation on earth,” he said. “It is impossible to put a price on that. We must remember them. We must appreciate them.”