About 55 people attended a Veterans Day ceremony Sunday at the Rutland American Legion Post 31, during which Col. Peter Fagan, retired, talked about the importance of honoring veterans.

Fagan, who was re-elected for his sixth term as a state representative last week, started his remarks by asking the veterans at the event to repeat their oath of enlistment, which includes a promise to defend the Constitution.

Fagan asked what, or who, is the Constitution that veterans have sworn to protect with their lives.

“The Constitution itself helps to answer that question with three little words. Three small, simple words. Three words that I can argue, there are no more important three words ever put together in humanity’s time on the face of the Earth: ‘We the people,’” he said.

Fagan said veterans weren’t really defending land, but their fellow Americans and their own families.

Showing gratitude to those who have served was the reason for the event on Sunday, Fagan said.

“As long as our country has veterans, and celebrates and remembers Veterans Day, our country will continue to be that beacon of hope to the world for democracy. That’s the reason we must be here today. That’s the reason we must continue to thank veterans,” Fagan said.

Fagan also joked that his first speech to the American Legion in Rutland in 2000 had lasted 25 minutes, so he was at the post making his second speech Sunday because it had taken 18 years to get forgiveness for such a lengthy address.

The Veterans Day observance also included several prayers offered by Post 31 Chaplain Steve Kipp, patriotic songs sung by Alea Valente, and a special tribute for veterans who have been or still are prisoners of war and veterans who remain listed as missing In action.

Mayor David Allaire, who served as master of ceremonies for the observance, said he wanted to offer personal thanks to veterans.

“We are in a period of great division in this country but one thing remains constant: We are forever grateful to our military men and women who have served and who continue to serve in order for all of us to continue to enjoy the freedoms that we all cherish,” he said.

Some prominent Vermont politicians released statements about Veterans Day on Sunday.

Gov. Phil Scott, in a statement, said he wanted to “join all Vermonters in thanking, honoring and remembering our Veterans, and their families, for their service and sacrifice.”

“As long as Vermonters continue to serve, and Americans continue to pledge their lives in the defense of others, we must pledge to do all we can to support them, to honor them, and to show our gratitude for all they do,” Scott said.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, former chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a statement Vermont veterans have a long history of military service going back to the Green Mountain Boys’ part in the American Revolution.

“We owe our veterans a tremendous debt of gratitude, which we will never truly be able to repay. While we set aside this day to recognize their service, we must commit ourselves to keep America’s promise to our veterans, just as they kept their promise to us,” Sanders said.

American Legion Post 31 Commander Thomas Rounds said after the event that he appreciated those who were there.

“We had a great group and I think everyone appreciated the ability to come here and thank veterans for their service. That’s part of why we exist,” he said.

The American Legion is approaching its 100th anniversary in March, but Rounds said Post 31 is planning an event for June.

“It’s a lot to be proud of. There’s so much good that’s going on for the community,” Rounds said.

patrick.mcardle@rutlandherald.com

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