Oneonta honors military veterans

Nov. 11—Veterans, their families and Oneonta residents took time to recognize veterans at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at Neahwa Park Friday, Nov. 11.

American Legion Post 259 of Oneonta, the Sons of the American Legion and VFW Post 1206 held the joint ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday.

Oneonta Mayor Mark Drnek explained why the date and time was important.

"Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veterans Day as it's known around the world is a day of remembrance and the anniversary of the formal end of World War I," he said. "It was the war to end all wars."

The people who signed the treaty that day "pledged to put an end to war," he said. They pledged this after "seeing the tragic toll the critical mass deaths caused," he said.

Drnek said it was sad the pledge didn't last. He said "While we honor the men and women who served our country, we must ensure veterans returning to civilian life receive the help they need."

He said one of the best ways to honor veterans is to not go to war. He said that could happen if people showed respect for one another. "We should rededicate ourselves to live in peace," he said.

Terry Harkenreader, commander of Post 259, talked about the sacrifices veterans made while serving their country, and after their service.

"Many servicemen and women become law enforcement officers," he said. "Twenty-five percent of law enforcement officers have a military background."

He told the story of Noah Shahnavez, who served in the U.S. Army before he went to the police academy and joined the Elwood, Indiana, Police Department. He said while driving around Elwood on July 31, he saw Theodore Winters painting a giant American flag mural on the side of a building. He stopped and complemented Winters on the mural and Winters thanked him for his service.

"A few hours later he was shot by a fellow motorist following a traffic stop," Harkenreader said. After Winters heard of his death, he dedicated the mural to Shahnavez, he said.

"Today, we honor all the men and women who donned a military uniform for our country," he said. "There are 19 million veterans in the United States today. Many are first responders, teachers" and other professions. "Veterans are a diverse group," he said. "They make up every nationality, religion in the world."

He said military service is "not for the faint of heart. The suicide rate is 50% higher than the general population." He encouraged veterans to perform "buddy checks" on fellow veterans who may be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and encouraged veterans contemplating suicide to call 988, ext. 1 for the Veterans Crisis Line.

After the ceremony, a luncheon was held at the Legion post on Chestnut Street.

Wayne Gregory said there will be a veterans appreciation dinner at 1 p.m. Jan. 7, where the Legion will dedicate a museum upstairs.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at or 607-441-7221.