The handful of people who attended Reynoldsburg's Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11 stood silently against a wintry chill, listening to a heartfelt prayer and solemn words to honor all of the city's military veterans.
Reynoldsburg American Legion Post 798 conducted the ceremony at Silent Home Cemetery, with Chaplain Carl Bradley leading those gathered in prayer.
"We honor the men and women who rest in this hallowed ground, who took up the call to defend this one nation under God," he said. "They will all be remembered, for we will never forget their courage and sacrifice, so others could live."
Legion members wore red crepe poppies in their lapels, a tradition that dates back to the 1920s when the red poppy became a symbol of the sacrifice of veterans who died during World War I. It began after publication of the wartime poem "In Flanders Fields," with its opening lines, "In Flanders Fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses row on row."
The poem was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D., while he served on the front lines during that war.
Bradley said Josephine M. Doney, the woman who began making poppies out of red crepe paper and distributing them in Reynoldsburg in the 1920s, is buried at Silent Home Cemetery. Doney was born in 1893 and died in 1980.
Post 798 members distributed poppies while conducting a food drive in front of the East Main Street Kroger store before the Veterans Day ceremony, collecting canned foods for the Helping Hands Food Pantry. The poppies are distributed by American Legion Posts on National Poppy Day, May 26.
Commander Pete Margaritas said Post 798 has conducted Veterans Day ceremonies for the past 10 years at the cemetery on Lancaster Avenue.
"We took the cemetery under our wing, distributing flags for veterans' graves and taking care of the graves," he said. "We have friends buried here."
In his speech Nov. 11, Margaritas said, "We are here to honor all veterans, especially those from the Reynoldsburg area ... There is no better friend than America and no worse enemy. We always hope for peace, but are ready for war."
Margaritas interviewed George Peto, a 92-year-old Marine Corps veteran who lived in Columbus, for a book published this year called "Twenty-two on Peleliu, Four Pacific Campaigns with the Corps." He said Peto had been a part of that invasion on Sept. 15, 1944.
Peto died July 4, 2016, but Margaritas was able to finish the book because of notes and recordings he had from weekly visits.
Former Reynoldsburg mayor Bob McPherson, a member of the American Legion, took part in the Veterans Day ceremony.
"I'm here for the American Legion and for exposure for this event," he said. "I hope people remember veterans who died for them."
Post 798 Vice Commander George Mussi said it was important for him to be at Saturday's ceremony, even if it was not well-attended.
"We want to honor and respect the veterans that served and the military personnel who are still serving," he said. "I served in Vietnam and we didn't have anyone celebrating our return.
"But it makes me feel good to be here and do something for our post veterans and their families."