PITTSFIELD -- An 87-year-old World War II veteran rose slowly from his chair, steadied himself with his cane, then helped a 92-year-old buddy to his feet.
A shy 6-year-old boy -- clad in the military fatigues he wore in honor of his father who is serving his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan -- snapped pictures.
Young and old, veterans and those who know them gathered at Pittsfield's Veterans Mem orial on South Street on Monday for the city's annual Veterans Day ceremonies.
Some came to remember veterans. Others were there to heal.
The annual parade and wreath-laying ceremonies were followed by remarks from keynote speaker and local radio talk show host Bill Sturgeon, who chose to honor his fellow Vietnam War veterans because the conflict had begun 50 years ago.
"I can't tell you how happy I am to see this representation," Sturgeon said, standing next to Mayor Daniel L, Bianchi and in between members of the City Council.
"Some of us who were in Vietnam can remember when we didn't have this kind of political support," he said.
According to Sturgeon, of the 2.7 million Americans who served in Vietnam, only 850,000 are still alive. He said 390 Vietnam veterans die every day. Some 1,660 Vietnam vets are still listed as missing in action.
"It is with great sadness that so many brothers and sisters have left us," Sturgeon said. "They didn't receive the recognition that they deserve that we receive."
Sturgeon spoke of the struggles that Vietnam veterans first encountered when they returned home from the war that deeply divided the country.
"Many of us found that our service would not be rewarded when we returned home," he said. "Rather, we were scorned and ridiculed and we were hated. Somehow we the warriors were the focal point of a nation's anger over the war."
Through those struggles, Sturgeon said Vietnam veterans learned that they could count on each other for support, "the way they had depended on each so much before."
He urged the younger veterans in attendance "to carry on and help each other." His voice rising, Sturgeon said the younger veterans should remember the motto of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
"Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another," he said.
Bianchi said he considered Veterans Day to be a "solemn holiday."
"To all of the veterans here today, on behalf of our community, we want to thank you," he said.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Francis Tremblay, also a Vietnam veteran, was honored as the 2012 Veteran of the Year.
Richard Jordan, 87, a Marine Corps veteran of World War II, said the festivities reminded him of a friend, Richard Boos, who died during the battle of Iwo Jima.
"I think of him quite often," Jordan said. "We were buddies. [This day] brings back memories of the guys that I knew."
Six-year-old Averi Willis of Pittsfield smiled when asked about his father, Shane, who is stationed in Afghanistan.
"He's very proud of him," said Averi's mother, Shana.