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Veterans of Foreign Wars Talk with VOA - 2001-11-14

Sunday was Veterans’ Day, and all over America, people honored veterans of past wars and expressed support for those serving in America’s current campaign against terrorism. Veterans Day is especially significant to an organization called the Veterans of Foreign Wars, whose members gathered at VFW posts across the country.

It is Sunday morning, Veterans’ Day, and the flag outside this VFW post in Waldorf, Maryland is lowered to half-staff. Veterans from World War II to the Gulf war and numerous conflicts in between have gathered to remember their comrades.

Post Commander John Groat said, “The one day out of the year that America unites to honor the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces.” And Vietnam veteran Patrick Byers tells us why we should be grateful. “I believe they should be honored, at least one day, for making the supreme sacrifice,” he said.

On this day, exactly two months after the September 11 attacks, many of these veterans are still outraged by the destruction. Commander Groat said, “We will resolve this issue eventually. It's a shame that it took this 5,000 people dying in New York and the 200 or so that died at the Pentagon for this to come to this. We've been battling these terrorists for years. I’ve been out of service for 16 years. I was in Beruit, Lebanon and we were battling terrorists then.”

To become a member of the VFW you must have received a campaign medal in a foreign war. Milt Krause, received his medals as part of the World War II “D-Day” invasion. He said, “If people really knew what war is, and how bad it is, we wouldn't be having wars.”

Another veteran said, “Armistice Day was an annual holiday in the United States, Great Britain, and France celebrating the day of the end of World War I.”

Veterans’ Day used to be called Armistice Day, the day World War I ended, at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918 - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. But as everyone knows, World War I was not the war to end all wars, so the name was changed to Veterans’ Day in 1954.

After the flag is brought to half-staff, post members traveled to a near-by veterans’ cemetery, where patriotic speeches were given. “I was proud to serve in the United States Marine Corps and I would put my uniform back on today if I was called. And I'm sure each and every one of you would also,” another member of the VFW said.

A wreath was laid and Taps was played.

These men and women share a common bond, having shared the military experience. For many, life in the uniform in the service of their country was the most important experience of their lives.

“But maybe out of this tragedy up in New York and down here in Washington, something will come out of it, Mr. Milt Krause said. “I think it got everybody back closer together and I hope it stays that way.”