Patriotism and appreciation for soldiers past and present were almost tangible Saturday as the "Music of World War I" Veterans Day observance brought a standing room only crowd to the Emma Kelly Theater.
For the first time, the event featured professional performers - nationally syndicated radio host and song historian Michael Lasser, vocalist Cindy Miller and pianist and cabaret singer Alan Jones brought a program of songs celebrating the centennial of the United States' 1917 involvement in World War I.
Hosted by American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90, the program, directed by Senior Vice Commander Dan Foglio, the annual event was co-sponsored by Georgia Southern University's Zach S. Henderson Library, the Averitt Center for the Arts, and Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home.
There were changes from the past programs this year - there was no keynote speaker. Lassiter kept a running commentary throughout the musical performances, however, explaining the history of the songs that were sung.
The theater began filling quickly before the program began. After a posting of the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance, Foglio asked for "a moment of silence for the veterans who passed this year."
People in the crowd appeared excited as the seats filled before the show.
"I was in the Army, and I know what (soldiers) do," said W. R. "Bobby" Smith. His reason for attending was to honor fellow veterans.
Delores Askins, remembered her father Euell Akins, a Bulloch County man who served. "My father gave so much. We always remember him," she said.
There were people of all ages in the crowd. A young Marine, Christopher Lewis, said he was there for "honor, compassion and commitment" and to thank others who served.
Catherine Fogarty Edenfield became emotional as she spoke of her reasons for attending.
"I am here to honor parents, grandparents and great grandparents who served," she said. "We need to honor those who gave up so much for us. This is the least we can do."
Lasser, Miller and Jones, are all from the Rochester, N.Y., area. They perform across the country, Saturday morning, they sang several popular songs from the World War I period of 1914-1918. Lassiter's comments in between songs pointed out the changing attitudes of the public as the war progressed,
This wasn't their first visit to Statesboro. In 2015, they performed a selection of historical music on the Georgia Southern campus for a Civil War sesquicentennial program the Henderson Library sponsored.
That is possibly what led Dr. Bede Mitchell, dean of the library, to recommend the group to Foglio for tis year's Veteran's Day observance. The Henderson Library helped sponsor the event by helping to pay the performers' expenses.
The songs performed included, "I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a Soldier" and "Send the Word Over There."
In addition to the music, the observance included posting of the colors by the Knights of Columbus; a welcome from Post 90 Commander Skip Campbell; the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer and the National Anthem.
The program ended with the crowd joining in to sing "God Bless America."
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.