Franklin — Support for Franklin's Veterans Day ceremony and veterans themselves continues to grow, with the Nov. 11 event reaching its largest turnout yet.
Held in the Franklin Public Library's Fadrow Room, right next to the city's veterans memorial, the morning program drew approximately 212 veterans and supporters, an increase of almost 100 people compared to last year's crowd, which included approximately 125 attendees.
Franklin has had a veterans memorial since 2006, when it was built by Eagle Scout Derek McElroy – who is now a veteran himself – and then formally dedicated on Veterans Day that year.
AMVETS Post 60 took over the upkeep of the memorial in 2007, and afterward started receiving questions about whether they also held a Veterans Day ceremony there.
"Since our post had the responsibility for the memorial, we thought we should put together something," said Ed Thomas of AMVETS Post 60, the event's coordinator.
The post wanted to create a program that was not political, but rather, "All about the veterans," Thomas added.
The program has grown time-wise since it first began in 2010 and now includes a formal Quilts of Honor presentation, several speakers, and more ceremonial efforts to honor veterans in Franklin and elsewhere. The event has also moved from the memorial itself to the inside of the library in the past few years.
However, Thomas noted, there is a set capacity to those rooms in the library. With over 200 people nearly filling the room in this year's program, the ceremony may soon outgrow its space.
"It's heartening to see that every year this crowd gets a little bigger," Franklin Mayor Steve Olson said at the event. "I hope that someday in the near future, maybe next year, that we can't have it here; we have to have it at the high school in the auditorium with so many people having chosen to come out and honor you all."
AMVETS Post 60 will continue to look at ways to change the program. Though this may not necessarily include a relocation, Thomas said that the group will debrief what went well at this year's ceremony and what may be different in the future.
This year's program featured a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action presentation by retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Phillip Dibb in addition to individual speakers Olson, AMVETS Post 60 Commander Jim Ruppel, and U.S. Col. Donald Mayer, senior adviser to the Wisconsin National Guard.
Roxane Ashcraft, a coordinator for Quilts of Honor, presented seven quilts to veterans at the event. Last year was the first year quilts were formally presented as a part of the program.
Thomas said that even though it has been over a decade since the veterans memorial was established in Franklin, the community is still actively supporting the memorial and Franklin's veterans.
"Support for veterans has increased over the years as people continue to support the troops," Thomas said. "Regardless of the politics."