Veterans Day recognized in Graham County

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: From left, Gila Valley Honor Guard Commander Steve Oller looks on as Mitch Ruiz speaks to the crowd at the Veterans Day event on Thursday.

By Jon Johnson

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

SAFFORD – Graham County honored its service members with an annual veterans parade followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Graham County Courthouse on Thursday for Veterans Day. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Gila Valley Honor Guard poses with some of their biker supporters.

Gila Valley Honor Guard Commander Steve Oller hosted the event, which featured a speech by retired Marine Mick Ruiz and an assortment of patriotic songs by Sharon Watson, who also sang a medley of Armed Forces songs in honor of those in attendance.

The event also saw the 3rd annual return of the Field of Honor on the Safford City Hall lawn. Roughly 300 flags were placed each in honor of a veteran. The Field of Honor is sponsored by the Safford Lions Club.

Ruiz spoke of a “call to duty” and the desire to serve his country as reasons he had for enlisting. He said Graham County has about 1,900 veteran residents, and Greenlee County has more than 600 out of the roughly 19 million veterans in the United States today.

While Memorial Day honors those who have died while serving in the U.S. military, Veterans Day – originally called Armistice Day – honors all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. It was originally celebrated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, one year to the day WWI ended. Congress officially recognized it as a federal holiday in 1938, and in 1954 its name was changed to Veterans Day. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Sharon Watson belts out patriotic music.

The Eastern Arizona College Marching Band was on hand for the festivities after having marched and played in the parade.

Watson closed out the ceremony with a rousing rendition of “God Bless the USA” to the enjoyment of those in attendance who stood along and sang with her. 

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