Instead of one day, Harford's veterans will have two, thanks to the Harford County Historical Society's Veterans Day celebration Nov. 10 and 11 in Downtown Bel Air.
The Historical Society's two-day event will honor Harford's strong connection to the U.S. military, as well as the men and women who serve, dating as far back as the French and Indian War. This will be the town's first Veterans Day parade in more than 50 years, the Historical Society said.
There will be a wine and cheese reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Reckord Armory, 41 N. Main St., where visitors can preview an exhibit of wartime artifacts, including uniforms, posters and other memorabilia, which the historical society put together. There will also be live music from Duke Thompson and Maryland Conservatory of Music. The reception, Director of the Harford County Historical Society Maryanna Skowronski said, also serves as a "thank you" to Main Street businesses that may be "slightly inconvenienced" by traffic during the holiday.
On Nov. 11, when Veterans Day is observed nationally, there will be a 10 a.m. parade down Main Street, starting at Churchville Road and ending at Lee Street. A military band, Color Guard detachments from several organizations and the National Guard will begin the ceremony. Vintage and modern military vehicles will ride down Downtown Bel Air as part of the parade. Veterans, especially those who are older, are welcome to ride in the vehicles. Harford County State's Attorney Joe Cassilly will serve as Grand Marshal.
The parade will be followed by a luncheon at noon at the Armory. Tickets are available through the Historical Society for $18 per person until Nov. 7 and must be paid for in advance. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler will speak.
At 2 p.m., there will be a rededication of the Armory. The ownership of the Armory, which served the Maryland National Guard from 1915 to 2010, was transferred from the state to the town of Bel Air in January. County Executive David Craig will speak, as well as council member for district C, which includes Bel Air, James "Capt'n Jim" McMahan. Don Morrison, of Harford County Public Schools, will be master of ceremonies.
While researching the armory's history, Skowronski said, they found out local Masons chapter, Mt. Ararat Lodge on Gordon Street, created the original cornerstone in 1915. When they called the chapter to tell them about this piece of the Armory's history, Mt. Ararat wanted to be a part of the cornerstone dedication.
From 2 to 5 p.m., the exhibits will be on display and open to the public once again. All events, except for the luncheon are free and open to the public.
The exhibits, which include pieces from every major conflict Harford County residents have been involved in, will be on display both days and select items will remain on display at the Historical Society. Some items that will be shown to the public are uniforms from every branch of the military — except Coast Guard because no uniforms have been donated as of yet — lent by the veterans themselves or family members, a neck brace from World War II, a copy of the Bush Declaration and maps made by French troops during the American Revolution.
"The [event] committee thought veterans don't get the recognition they deserve," Skowronski said. She added that many of the veterans she knows are quiet and reserved, and don't often publicize that they have served. This is the society's way, she said, to show thanks to every one of them.
Skowronski repeatedly expressed her gratitude for the generosity numerous local businesses have shown in making the celebration possible.
"We couldn't do it without the Maryland National Guard," she added. The National Guard gave the Historical Society access to its storage unit in Baltimore that contains military artifacts, some of which will be on display.
Carol Deibel, who volunteers at the historical society, said the group "wanted to recognize all that the National Guard has done for the community for almost 100 years at the armory."
"It has been a really big effort on the part of a lot of people," Deibel, who also had a big role in planning the celebration, said. She added that the idea at first was to have a small event, but grew as more and more people got involved. "We wanted to thank the veterans and showcase a lot of the materials the historical society had that had never been exhibited."
Right now, everyone is working hard to get everything ready, Deibel said.
"What we're working on is getting the exhibits ready, and we have a large number of volunteers that are working on the overall committee and another group of volunteers helping with setup and display," she explained.
One thing that Deibel is excited for are the stories from veterans that will be taped and kept for posterity. Teaming up with Kathi Santora, with the Bel Air Bond newsletter, Deibel said Santora and her husband will videotape "anyone who would want to tell their story about their term in service" on Nov. 11 from 5 to 8 p.m. Stories from people with memories of the Armory, such as when it was used as the MVA or when people reported there when drafted, are also invited to share their tales. All the tapes will be kept in the historical society's archives.
While the Historical Society already has many items of memorabilia for the celebration, its members encourage veterans with ties to the county, as well as their relatives, to submit anything they may have to be a part of the exhibit. For more information, visit celebratingharfordveterans.org or call 410-838-7691.