Veterans honored in ceremony

HOUGHTON – On the coldest day of fall yet, Jim Mattson wasn’t sure if there’d be a crowd for this year’s Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park in Houghton.

They may have needed extra hats and scarves, but they made it.

“As we drove down the road, I said, ‘Holy smokes, there’s a bunch of people here,'” said Mattson, past commandant of the Marine Corps League Keweenaw Detachment. “Which is really nice on this kind of a day.”

The annual ceremony, hosted by the Copper Country Veterans Association, included a prayer by Rev. Ken Toth and a rifle salute before the playing of “Taps.” Those assembled also observed a moment of silence.

Monday’s guest speaker was Sandy Coponen, also a past commandant of the Marine Corps League detachment.

Throughout the country’s history, veterans have defended basic human rights such as freedom of religion, the right to work where you want and the right to democracy.

“Our parents, siblings and our children have bravely left their fields, homes, jobs and families to hold fast to these rights, not knowing if they would ever return whole, or not even ever return,” she said.

War can take a toll even on those who come back. Mattson followed with a reminder from the American Legion that over the past year, on average there was more than one suicide a day by members of active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve forces.

“Simply put, we are losing more service members by their own hands than we are by the enemy in Afghanistan,” he said.

The American Legion recommends veterans showing signs of unhappiness or depression should be encouraged to seek help through Veterans Affairs. If they have trouble getting benefits, the Legion also has trained service officers to help people navigate red tape.

“We are their friends, their family, their co-workers and their neighbors,” Mattson said. “It is up to us to ensure that every veteran feels that his or her service to this country is appreciated by their fellow Americans. There are many tangible ways that we can acknowledge their sacrifice, but the easiest is to simply say, ‘Thank you for what you have done for our country.'”