Veterans Day observed with renewed passion

By Megan R. Harrell

STAR STAFF
mharrell@starhq.com

  
On Nov. 11, originally Armistice Day, Americans once observed the signing of the document that officially ended World War I in 1918. The holiday wasn't renamed Veterans Day until 1954 when President Eisenhower signed a bill stating it would honor men and women who serve/have served in all American wars.
   Since then, on Nov. 11, national and local ceremonies help Americans remember those in the armed forces who have served our country.
   Many people confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day, a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, primarily those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.
   While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, the day is actually set aside to thank and honor those living and deceased who have served in the military during wartime and peace.
   Until last year, our nation has not been faced with the possibility of war since the war in the Persian Gulf. We had enjoyed relative peace and the freedoms that accompany it. Now, our nation faces potential violence in the Middle East and terror on the home front.
   This Veterans Day holds a special reminder of what is at stake in war. A sense of gratitude rings a little truer for many Americans. Some local residents recently voiced their feelings for veterans, as the nation remembers its servicemen and women.
   Marion Barnett served at Ft. Raleigh before he served in the National Guard for six years. He pauses to take pride in his service as well as others' sacrifices on Veterans Day. "It means a great deal to me. I am a veteran. I was never in a war, but I served, and I really take pride in that," he said.
   Barnett views the day no differently than he did before even with the threat of war on the nation's horizon. "I feel like Veterans Day has always meant the same thing to me. It means freedom."
   In a community heavily saturated with veterans, many local residents have been affected by combat in one way or another. Sam Barker was waiting to be shipped to Japan when the first atomic bomb was dropped. He is thankful the bombs ended the war and grateful to the men who went to war before him.
   "Veterans Day means a whole lot to me, having served in the Navy back in the second world war," Barker said. "It is a day when we honor those that were called to a very, very significant duty and a sacrifice."
   Barker has noticed a renewed investment in the nation's heritage. He said, lately, younger generations are more interested in the sacrifices made in our nation's history.
   "In the last couple of years young people have become more oriented to our country, and that is good," Barker said. "I see more flags. I see more respect. People that know we are veterans actually have come up to us and thanked us."
   American youth Tara Russell realizes the cost of freedom. She goes to the cemetery every Veterans Day to place flowers on her grandfather's grave. "My 'papaw' fought in World War II, and he died in 1996. I respect veterans because they helped to save our country in my point of view," she said.
   Some local residents believe steps have been made toward restoring the original enthusiasm behind the observance of Veterans Day but would still like to see the day held in higher esteem. Jess Mahone believes the nation pauses more for deceased president's birthdays than it does for millions of veterans who served.
   "It is more significant and it should be more observed than it has been," Mahone said. "A lot of people gave their lives and sacrificed so that we could come to Wal-Mart or go to church."
   Mahone has noticed, however, that the day is observed more today than it was a couple of decades ago. "The impact of being a veteran and of what soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines do has come back ever since the Gulf War," he said.
   If local trends were the gauge by which the nation's pride in veterans were measured, then one could conclude the U.S. has returned to a place where it honors its heritage, and those who contributed to it.