(MURFREESBORO) As the cupola clock chimed 11:00 Wednesday morning (11/11/2020), the annual Veterans Day program on the Murfreesboro square began.
County Mayor Bill Ketron welcomed those in attendance as well as the radio audience.
Between the COVID-19 pandemic and scattered showers through the morning, it was not certain what size of crowd the 2020 Veterans Day Memorial Service on the Murfreesboro Square would have.
The rain moved away about an hour prior to the event and with temps in the low 60s a sizable crowd gathered in the bricked circle, along with many others social distancing across the entire front of the eastside of the historic Rutherford County Courthouse.
With concern about the coronavirus, Event Coordinator Barb Pitto said that WGNS was going to broadcast the local Veterans Day tribute "live" and the pubic could stay safe at home. The parking around the square was full and persons were seen sitting in the warmth of their vehicle and listening to the WGNS' broadcast.
Retired State Senator Andy Womack, who was a sergeant and served in Vietnam as a member of the infantry, was the keynote speaker.
After the event, Pitto received many complements for shortening the program. Instead of one-hour, it was approximately 30-minutes this year.
Proudly, WGNS carried the first Veterans Day tribute on November 11, 1995, and has carried all of them after that initial salute.
(MURFREESBORO) At 11:00 o'clock this Wednesday (11/11/2020) morning, the historic Murfreesboro square will be decked in red, white and blue as the backdrop to the city's annual Veterans Day program. It will be held on the east side of the courthouse, and is a "rain or shine" outside event.
Veterans Day Coordinator Barbara Pitto said, "This is a milestone year for Murfreesboro's Veterans Day. It is our community's 25th year of having a formal ceremony on the square. If you are in good health, I encourage you to attend in person. For those who have health challenges and are concerned with COVID-19, tune to WGNS and listen on the radio in the safety of your home."
Rain or Shine
Pitto noted that with the pandemic, Veterans Day must be held outside--rain or shine.
She underlined that for the safety of all who attend, CDC guidelines will be followed...including wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Veterans Day Program
The master of ceremonies will be Lt. Col. Austin Maxwell. He served in the infantry in Vietnam from 1966-1968.
The keynote speaker is local insurance executive Andy Womack. He also served in Vietnam as an infantryman and achieved the rank of sergeant. In addition to his work with State Farm Insurance, Womack served this district in the State Senate from 1988-2000.
For those who will listen to the broadcast "live" over WGNS, the pledge of allegiance and invocation will be given by Ander Farrer. He is the coordinator of a group known as The Irreverent Warriors. They work to prevent veteran suicide.
The reading of the names of local veterans who have made the supreme sacrifice in the past is one of the most moving parts of each Veterans Day tribute in Murfreesboro. This year, the reading of POW/MIA resolution 288 will be included. It will be read by David Barlow who served in the US Naval Aviation during the Vietnam era. David is active in the local American Legion Post 141.
A special thank you to Mrs. Lauren Spencer. She will play our National Anthem on the trumpet and conclude the Veterans Day ceremony with TAPS.
Broadcast "Live" on WGNS
Again, if you cannot attend the event in person, tune your radio to WGNS at 11:00 o'clock Wednesday morning (AM 1450, FM 100.5, FM 101.9, and streaming at www.WGNSradio.com).
History of Veterans Day
In recent times, the late Elsie Stem started Murfreesboro's current series of Veterans Day tributes on the square on November 11, 1995--a quarter of a century ago. Proudly WGNS has broadcast all 25 of the Veterans Day programs.
Every once in awhile, your life is touched by a person who truly cares about others. Murfreesboro's Veterans Day tribute would not have happened in 1995 if it had not been for one woman. Issues arose and someone dropped the ball just days before the big event.
That's when Elsie Stem entered, picked-up from there and saved Veterans Day. On November 11, 2011, after sixteen-years, this energetic woman retired from organizing this major annual tribute on the Murfreesboro square.
She jumped into coordinating the event in honor of her husband of 65-years, Willie Stem, Jr. He was a U.S. Army paratrooper in the 507th parachute infantry division during the battle of the bulge in World War II where he received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.
Elsie Stem passed away in 2013 at the age of 86.
Veterans Day is a federal holiday honoring those who have served our country in the military. It coincides with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day in other parts of the world. It also marks the end of World War I. Major hostilities ended on the 11th month, 11th day and 11th hour of 1918, thus Veterans Day is always November 11th at 11:00AM. The United States also originally observed Armistice Day. It then evolved into the current Veterans Day holiday in 1954.