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Terrorism War Brings Added Significance to Veterans' Day Ceremonies - 2001-11-11

Sunday was Veterans' Day in the United States, a day that originally honored World War I veterans, but now is a day to remember all military veterans. The terrorist attacks of September 11 and the war against terrorism has renewed interest in this holiday.

On a beautiful sunny Sunday morning in downtown Chicago, about 200 people gathered at the city's eternal flame memorial to veterans for this year's Veterans' Day ceremony. Most were World War II or Korean War veterans and their families, but they had the country's newest war, the war against terrorism, on their minds.

John Geiger is a commander in the American Legion, a veterans' support organization. He said, "We all pray for the young people in our services. We pray for all of the mothers in this world from both sides of the issue who are worried about their young people, themselves and their families. Let's bring peace to the world through strength."

Many local Veterans' Day ceremonies in recent years have been attended by small groups of aging veterans. Some communities have stopped holding their annual parades altogether.

But Army veteran John Shunick of Chicago said this Veterans' Day does have more significance than those in recent years, because of the U.S. efforts to track down and defeat those responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks. "I would say that the country in general has been united, not only by veterans and servicemen, but everybody else. If you look around and see how many flags are being flown I think it has awakened a spirit of patriotism for a lot of people in this country," he said.

A few blocks away, a veterans' group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War was holding a much smaller ceremony of its own.

Member Joe Miller was among those speaking out against the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, which he says is hurting innocent people. "We are for carrying out justice," he said, "we are for going after the people who need to be gone after, the people who are directly responsible, but that should not be an excuse to go to war, to bomb innocent civilians, to produce more terrorists."

Officials in several Chicago-area communities were expecting their Veterans' Day observances to be better-attended than in years past. One suburb's mayor sent letters to every household encouraging families to attend the midday parade on Sunday. The city of Joliet, Illinois was planning to have its first Veterans' Day parade in several years.