Several veterans who attended the Veterans Day ceremony in Havre de Grace Monday had not heard about the event in advance, but they stopped to listen to speakers honor veterans and their service to the country.
"I came by and saw the celebration," Steve Ariosa, of Charlestown in Cecil County, said.
The Vietnam War veteran, who was wearing a faded green cap with the words "Vietnam Veteran" on the front, was in Havre de Grace Monday for a doctor's appointment and came across the ceremony in Millard Tydings Park.
The ceremony was put on by members of American Legion Post 47 in Havre de Grace; featured speakers included Post Commander Ronald "Buddy" Lilly, Mayor Wayne Dougherty and Lt. Col. Lance Newby, of the Maryland National Guard, a Havre de Grace native.
"Though it is a somber day of reflection and homage it truly is a day to celebrate as well," Dougherty said, speaking from the park's gazebo to an audience of about 100 people. "We celebrate freedom as we honor all who have served to make freedom possible for us and to extend those freedoms abroad."
Newby, who resides in Conowingo and who served in Afghanistan during 2011 and 2012, working to train members of the Afghan National Army, spoke of the support the public and government has given veterans of his generation.
He said the public support, which he called "a daily happening," includes ceremonies to welcome him and his fellow troops home, handshakes and thanks for their service, people paying for their meals at restaurants and being upgraded to first class when flying.
Newby said government officials have also improved programs to help troops make the transition to the home front, and to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"It took a long time for this nation to realize that PTSD was real," he said.
Newby noted the support for veterans was late in coming for those who served during Vietnam, but it has increased since the 9/11 attacks of 2001.
"Finally, after 50 years, I'm proud of my service in Vietnam," Ariosa said.
Ariosa served as an Army military policeman in Vietnam during 1968 and 1969.
He said veterans of that war were not welcomed by the American public when they returned.
"I was ashamed to put my uniform on because people were mean to us . . . it took years before I felt comfortable publicizing my service," Ariosa said.
He said things changed for him after 9/11 as Americans showed their support for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ariosa began getting involved in veterans organizations and wearing his cap.
He spoke during parts of the ceremony with Korean War veteran Jim West, of North East, who was also walking through the park when he spotted the ceremony.
He served in Korea from 1949 – before the war began – to 1955, a couple of years after the war ended,
He was a member of the 1st Marine Division and scouted behind enemy lines to obtain information on Chinese and North Korean troop movements to report back to the division command.
"I was called a ghost over there for lack of a better name," West said after the ceremony.