Veterans receive heartfelt thanks from a grateful community

American Legion Post Commander Richard Patt speaks about the sacrifices members of the military have made over the years in defense of America's freedom during a ceremony Nov. 11 at the Veterans Memorial at the Seventh Street Complex in John Day. The Eagle/Tim Adams

It was 11 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918, the eleventh hour of the last day of World War I, when in a forest in the north of France, the Germans accepted the Allies' armistice terms and the fighting of The Great War was ended four years after it started.

Nearly a quarter of a million Americans were wounded and 116,516 were killed during WWI, which was called the war to end all wars.

Ellis Tracy fought in that war and he was killed in combat in September 1918. Tracy was the first person from Grant County to be killed in WWI.

The American Legion post in John Day was chartered in 1920 as Ellis Tracy Post 77.

Nov. 11 became a legal holiday in 1938. It was called Armistice Day to honor veterans of WWI. After World War II saw the largest mobilization of American soldiers in the country's history, and after the battles in Korea, the word "armistice" was changed to "veterans" in 1954. Nov. 11 became a day to honor all Amercians who served their country in peace and in war.

The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, is that Memorial Day (May 30) is a day to honor those who died serving our country. Veterans Day is intended to thank living veterans for their service, to tell them that America appreciates their efforts.

"It's important," said Carol Rudishauser, exalted ruler of the John Day Elks Lodge, who led the annual ceremony Nov. 11 at the Veterans Memorial at the Seventh Street Complex. "We can't do enough for the people who have served this country."

The ceremony started at 11 a.m., the hour of remembrance,

with a prayer led by Lindy Maynard, the Elks' chaplain.

It was a chilly, wet morning, but no one in the crowd of 100 people who attended the short, respectful service was heard complaining of bad weather; the gray sky and the damp breeze only added to the solemn atmosphere.

Uniformed members of the local Scout troops stood erect, and an honor guard of veterans, with rifles by their side, was at parade rest during the ceremony.

Pauline Habbe was one of several members of the American Legion who spoke during the ceremony, reading from a text prepared by the American Legion.

"The hurts of war fall alike upon those wear the same uniform, no matter how they may differ in race, creed or culture. Those who fight together suffer together to achieve a common aim," Habbe read. "As we put aside the brown and blue and green fabrics that made us one people on the battlefields, we can hold in our minds that tolerance we have achieved. In tolerance, there is progress - progress toward a better and a happier world."

Habbe was in the Women's Army Corps in WWII, stationed in Ft. Dix, New Jersey. Back problems kept her from being assigned duty overseas. She spent three years in the service, working in administration and recruiting, until she was discharged in 1947.

The ceremony ended with the release of two balloons to honor fallen comrades as shots from the honor guard echoed against the surrounding hills, and then the melancholy sound of "Taps" blew from Ed Heiple's bugle with a sweet cry of good-bye.

That night in Prairie City, a crowd filled Strawberry Grange to thank those who protect our freedom. Approximately 100 people participated in a community potluck to honor all of the men and women veterans in Prairie City, along with members of the fire department, police department and emergency medical technicians.

Veterans were asked to stand to be recognized and to be honored. Men ranging in age and wars from Desert Storm to World War II and one woman, Ruth Casebeer, who served as a Navy nurse during Vietnam, stood for applause.

Marvin Casebeer, 87, Ruth's husband, was living in Heppner when the draft started in January of 1941. Marvin enlisted in March and after six weeks of training was shipped to fight in World War II.

"I was there for the invasion of Casablanca, Sicily and Iwo Jima," Casebeer said. " I was there a total of five years."

After the war, Ruth moved to Morrow County to become a surgical nurse. That's when she met Marvin

"That is when she got in trouble," Marvin said.

• Marissa Allen and Scott Mallory contributed to this story.

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