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Heroes, all ... Veterans Day recognizes American military personnel, wherever and whenever they served.

With U.S. Armed Forces deployed around the world--and the very real possibility of a major ground war in Iraq--Veterans Day 2002 provoked a complex range of reactions among America's citizens. Most people willingly profess their gratitude for the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served this country. But they also have well-founded concerns about those who may soon be placed in harm's way.

"From the Revolutionary War to the war against terrorism today, nearly 50 million Americans have answered the call to defend their country against hostile powers," says Joseph L. Fox Sr., Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) national president. "Today, 25 million veterans who have served as far back as World War I are alive. Although our country--and indeed the world--has changed drastically since 1917, one constant connects all who served their country: a love of the freedom the United States has bestowed on its citizens."

PVA celebrated Veterans Day--November 11--in Washington, D.C., as well as across the country. In our nation's capital, the organization's leaders attended the annual ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. (This year was the memorial's twentieth anniversary. See Reasons & Remarks, this issue.)

PVA members fortunate enough to be in Washington, D.C.--or able to travel there--observed Veterans Day by attending the Arlington observance, hosted by the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA). The PVA entourage braved the elements to join an overflowing crowd at the amphitheater for this forty-ninth annual Veterans Day National Ceremony.

On this day, the nation's 25 million living veterans, who represent nearly a century of selfless sacrifices in defense of the American way of life, were recognized. At 11:00 a.m., President George W. Bush, flanked by members of Congress and his cabinet, commanders and chiefs of the U.S. Armed Forces, and leaders of veterans' service organizations (VSOs)--including PVA President Fox and Vietnam Veterans Association President Tom Corey--placed the presidential wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns as the dark and rainy skies added to the solemn occasion.

The observance continued in the rain-soaked amphitheater, with the Pledge of Allegiance. BVA National President Joe Bums offered welcoming remarks.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, Veterans Day National Committee chairman, introduced President Bush, who delivered the keynote address. The attentive audience was reminded that we dedicate ourselves to supporting the men and women of our armed services as they stand tall and proud before the onrushing winds of tyranny. The President was warmly received as he reiterated his resolve in the effort to rid the world of despots and terrorists who are determined to destroy our freedoms and our very way of life.

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

Members of PVA's 35 chapters planned local ceremonies and other activities to honor their comrades. From north to south and east to west, special events marked the day--and in some cases, the entire week.

For example, in California, Cal-Diego PVA members marched in San Diego's Veterans Day parade. The "Ride, Stride, & Roll" motorcycle rally & 5k run, walk, and roll offered fun for all.

On November 9, Auburn, Wash., had a Veterans Day parade and luncheon. Northwest PVA President Gary Pearson was the grand marshal. During the week, chapter members spoke at elementary and high-school assemblies and on Veterans Day attended ceremonies in Seattle.

Florida Gulf Coast PVA members had a busy schedule as well. On November 4-8, students and teachers at three middle schools were the audience for "What Being a Veteran Means." The chapter set up an information table with literature and patriotic gifts during the November 8 Veterans Day ceremony in Tampa, and its color guard participated in the November 9 parade at Town & Country, Fla. FGCPVA was at the table of honor at the November 11 ceremony at Tampa's Veterans Memorial Park and was featured at the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL game that evening (a percentage of the ticket sales benefited the chapter).

In the Great Lakes area, Michigan PVAers participated in many events during the week, from school presentations to memorial ceremonies. Service Officer Henry Verner was speaker at the Veterans Day Panel Forum at the State Capitol. Michael Harris, government relations director; Maurice Jordan, executive director; and other MPVA members were honored at the Novi Rotary Veterans Luncheon.

On the East Coast, Virginia & Mid-Atlantic PVA members were involved in the Veterans Day program at McGuire VAMC in Richmond. The chapter donated to the refreshment fund and provided volunteers to serve the SCI patients unable to attend the ceremony.

Participation in parades was the observance of choice for most PVA chapters.

FILMED TRIBUTES

Three PVA members--World War II veteran Ed Santillanes and Vietnam War vets Jack Michaels and Del McNeal--are featured in recently released public service announcements recorded for PVA. These PSAs will run through May 2003 on more than 3,000 television and radio stations across the country. The spots tell of these veterans' heroic military service, where each was paralyzed in combat while serving our country.

Santillanes was in the military from 1943 to 1946 and received the Bronze Star for his service. He sustained a spinal-cord injury (SCI) when a shell hit his jeep as he crossed the Rhine River in Germany.

Michaels was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. He sustained an SCI when a rifle-propelled grenade hit his helicopter, sending it crashing into the jungles of the Central Highlands in July 1970.

In 1969-1979, McNeal served in Vietnam in the Army 101st Airborne Division. He was discharged after gunshot and shrapnel wounds to his spinal cord paralyzed him.

Spotlighted in PSAs, these three men are visible heroes. But Veterans Day 2002 was a tribute to all our servicemen and -women, past and present, who are our family members, friends, and neighbors--our country's unsung heroes. America thanks them, one and all.

SALUTE TO ALL

"I am reminded that Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I--the `war to end all wars,'" Fox says. "As we all know, this was not to be the case. War has not ended.

"Since that day 84 years ago when the guns fell silent at eleven o'clock in the morning on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, American men and women have repeatedly been called to defend and protect the nation. Veterans Day now recognizes the sacrifices of our American military, wherever and whenever they served."

According to Fox, PVA members continue to serve; their responsibility is not ended even though they are no longer in the military.

"On Election Day 2002, as on previous election days, PVA worked to ensure that polling places were accessible to all Americans," he explains, "so this essential privilege of citizenship is not denied to anyone because of disability. Our members serve as volunteers in VA medical centers to help the government honor its commitment to sick and disabled veterans. We work closely with VA staff and Congress so the funds needed to carry out that commitment are made available. Across the nation, in innumerable ways, PVA members strive to remove the physical and social barriers people with disabilities face, so America will remain the land of the free.

"When the Veterans Day speeches are over, the veterans remain. We at PVA salute our fellow veterans. We are proud to have served with them, and we pledge to continue to serve this great nation."

RELATE ARTICLE: Salt-y celebration.

In tandem with the Veterans Day Parade on San Diego's Harbor Drive, B'Quest, a 40-foot racing sailboat crewed by three generations of veterans (including those with disabilities) plied the waters of San Diego Bay.

"On land and sea ... that's the theme we tried to promote," says Urban Miyares, a blinded Vietnam veteran, B'Quest crew member, and Cal-Diego PVA associate member. "The San Diego boating community could take to the water and join us--flying the American flag to commemorate Veterans Day and those who have served and are serving."

B'Quest's crew included a dozen veterans and family members as they sailed from the San Diego Embarcadero (downtown), lining up with the start of the parade. They headed out at 11:00 a.m. and returned around 3:00 p.m.

On board were vets of the U.S. Army, Army Air Force, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marines.

Contact: Urban Miyares, (619) 594-8805 / (858) 484-1998 / urban@disabledbusiness .com / www.AIMSsailing.org.
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Author:Fitz-Patrick, Bill
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Words:1395
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