Integrace Fairhaven in Sykesville recognizes it veterans Monday, Nov. 12, 2018.
There were 12 names called out, and a bell rung 12 times Monday evening, honoring the veteran residents of Integrace Fairhaven, in Sykesville, who had died since the assisted living facility’s annual Veterans Day program last year.
“It’s usually our biggest event of the year, we get the most participation,” said event Chairwoman Ann Milne. “Everybody tells me they find it very moving.”
She said there were fewer veterans who had died honored this year, in part because fewer veterans are aging into Fairhaven, and for a couple of reasons.
“We’re sort of between wars. We still have some Second World War veterans, but not as many. The ones coming in now are more Vietnam and Korea,” she said. “Since the military went to volunteer, we don’t have as many military as we used to. There’s just not as many coming in.”
But there are those who are still there. Veterans like Milton Cooney, who flew in B-17 bombers over France in World War II and at 103 years old, is the oldest veteran at Fairhaven.
Cooney said he likes attending the Veterans Day ceremony at Fairhaven every year, and choked up a bit when talking about those who had died.
“They were good guys,” he said. “I’m just happy, fortunate. In my experiences, in the war, I was lucky every step of the way. I got back without a scratch. I have some good memories and some bad memories. But the Lord decided to bring me back. That’s why I’m here.”
Milt Peacock is not a Fairhaven resident, but the Navy veteran has been traveling from his Finksburg home to the Fairhaven Veterans Day ceremony for the past eight years, initially as part of the Westminster VFW Post 463 color guard until he injured his back several years ago.
“I went in 1942, active service up to ’46, I guess around there,” Peacock said of his service. “A total of nine years, navy. Flew anti-submarine patrol, North Africa and later England.”
Peacock said he likes the Fairhaven ceremony because it honors those veterans who lived there who have died.
“It’s nice to see the list is shorter now,” he said. “Last year it was a whole page.”
A couple of year ago, Peacock had back surgery and he is now walking again.
“I’m a new person, so I’m going to try and catch this guy who’s 103 now,” he said with a laugh. “I’m 94 now, I’ve got a good start.”
Grant Ridgely, a Navy veteran who served beginning in 1960, served as part of the color guard for Monday’s ceremony. It was his fifth year participating, he said, made more significant by coinciding with the centennial of the end of World War I.
“WWI ended in 1918. There’s no one surviving at this point. There’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren, a whole tree of people that owe a lot to those guys,” Ridgely said. “To me, it’s just a very important part of our history — and one we shouldn’t forget.”
Ceremonies like Fairhaven’s help preserve that memory for Ridgely, as does his family.
“My great-grandson came to the house yesterday and he gave me a little card and a little letter that the school had written about Veterans Day,” he said. “It warmed my heart to see that type of memory is still alive.”