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SHERIDAN — Sheridan residents and veterans of all ages filled the auditorium at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center Monday for a Veterans Day ceremony to honor the men and women who have defended America’s freedom through military service.
Similar events were held around the nation on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, which was the date and time in 1918 that an armistice was signed and World War I effectively ended.
Rev. Derek Schultz, chaplain at VAMC, read letters from U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis.
“Whether you wear the uniform today, or wore it decades ago, all veterans represent a fundamental truth,” Lummis wrote in her letter.
“It’s not the powerful weapons that make our military the greatest in the world. The true strength of our military is the spirit and skill of the men and women in uniform. Every one of you deserves the admiration of our entire country.”
Schultz also quoted Winston Churchill with this reminder:
“A nation that does not honor its heroes will soon have no heroes to honor.”
Already, all U.S. veterans from World War I have died, Sheridan VAMC Director Debra Hirschman said. More than 600 World War II veterans die per day, according to VA statistics. But, Hirschman said, more than 22 million U.S. veterans remain, and they deserve honor and gratitude every day.
Keynote Speaker Keith Davidson, a member of the Wyoming Veterans Commission, urged those present to remember to thank and honor all veterans, regardless of whether they served in wartime or peacetime.
“All veterans take the oath of office to defend the country of the United States,” Davidson said. “They all write a check payable up to life.”
Davidson noted in his speech that there are approximately 55,000 veterans in the state of Wyoming. This includes 42,930 wartime vets and 12,983 peacetime vets. He said there are 3,819 World War II veterans in the state, 5,283 from the Korean war, 18,274 Vietnam vets and 17,800 veterans from the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It’s nice to have the opportunity to support fellow veterans, and promote the idea of what the veterans have done for the country, and how they are probably some of the most responsible people for all the freedoms that we have, and the freedoms that we enjoy,” Davidson said.
Davidson served in Vietnam and said he knows what it’s like to not receive thanks as a veteran.
Alfred and Barbara Hill attended the ceremony and said afterwards that both their families have been in the service since the Revolutionary War. Alfred Hill served in Korea. The couple’s oldest son served with the Army National Guard in Kuwait, and then, on his second tour of duty, he served with his youngest son in Iraq.
“It caused me to spend a lot of time in prayer,” Barbara Hill said about having her son and grandson overseas. “I was never terrified, I was never fearful, and I was always very proud that they were serving, very proud. And, yes, I did a lot of praying.”
The Hills said it takes a few key qualities to serve in the military: responsibility, loyalty, commitment, discipline and unbridled patriotism.
“Even though, at times, I just grieve deeply for the cost to men and women for our nation to continue enjoying the freedoms that still exist, I realize it’s almost what you call a necessary evil,” Barbara Hill said. “You must be willing to defend what is precious to you even at the cost of your life.”