Veterans Day was established as a day to officially recognize all veterans although we should be recognizing them every day. This year, our area had numerous ceremonies to commemorate the day. For Don Farnham of Riverside, it has always held special meaning.
Farnham enlisted in the Marines in 1943, shortly after graduating high school. Although the draft was in existence, he wanted to be a Marine. Farnham saw action in two campaigns, the recapture of Guam and Iwo Jima, which relates “was the bloodiest battle, second only to Gettysburg.” In that battle, one out of three soldiers killed were Marines, lending credence to what I had always heard – that the Marines were the first to land.
In my history lesson during our conversation, Farnham related how Britain and Canada did more than the United States during the Normandy invasion. This past summer, he and daughter Norah went to Normandy to see a re-enactment of D-Day.
True to the Marines and the military, he has attended some of the reunions and is a lifetime member of the all-Marine Post of the American Legion but sadly notes that membership is down in the Legion. He is a “strong believer in the military” and wishes there was still a draft and firmly states that he “doesn’t want the military running the country.”
Farnham was also present at a recent Riverside Township Lions Club meeting when the Marines were recognized on their anniversary through the presence of two officers who spoke about the corps and held an official cake-cutting ceremony. Also honored was the late Jimmy Michaels of Riverside who was on Iwo Jima when the flag was raised and is part of the commemorative picture so often seen.
Riverside-Brookfield High School held the most impressive ceremony with an all-school assembly for veterans and members of the armed forces. Veterans were seated in a place of prominence in the gym following a breakfast and entertained by the school’s choral groups. An honor guard presented the colors and the choral groups sang patriotic songs, accompanied by the R-B band.
Members of the different branches stood as the band and choral groups presented the songs of each military group. Following the assembly, the veterans were led to various classrooms where they spoke to students about their experiences in the military. It was a day for the students to truly learn the meaning of the day.
And yes, when the Marine hymn was played, no one stood prouder than Don Farnham.