Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces exemplify “resilience, determination, selflessness, devotion, courage and honor,” having gone through challenging experiences that allowed the rest of the nation to “live” their lives in relative peace, said Capt. John K. Russ.
Russ, Submarine Squadron Fifteen commander, was the keynote speaker for this year’s Veterans Day Ceremony held yesterday at the American Memorial Park Court of Honor on “the 11th hour, the 11th day, the 11th month” or 11am on 11/11/11.
Veterans were joined by service members, government officials, and other community members in the annual holiday honoring military veterans in the Commonwealth and across the nation.
“Many of us have never come close to experiencing the incredible challenges and horrors of combat that many of our veterans have endured,” said Russ.
Russ asked his audience to “try to imagine” being in the same difficult situation-which he vividly described-as that endured by Medal of Honor recipients like Army Capt. Ben Solomon, Coast Guard signalman first class Douglas Munro, Navy Chaplain Lt. Vincent Capodanno, Air Force Capt. Steven Bennett, and Marine Corps Sgt. Dakota Meyer.
“These gentlemen didn’t have to imagine these experiences; they lived them. .There are countless other stories, many untold, of heroism, valor, selflessness and dedication, all from veterans ‘just doing their jobs’ every day,” said Russ.
As he recognized the veterans, Russ also acknowledged their families whom he said are “all too often overlooked.”
“They are our military families: mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and children who hold down the fort and keep the home fires burning while their loved ones are away,” said Russ. “They are the key to the strength of our services and our veterans.”
Russ also highlighted the CNMI’s “longstanding tradition of service in the U.S. military.” “For an island with a population of so few, you have given more than most. I am honored to be among you today,” he said.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, who delivered the welcoming remarks, said the spirit of patriotism continues to live in the Commonwealth, and called on the island community to reflect on the contributions and sacrifices of war veterans.
“Without our veterans, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said Fitial. “For some, tomorrow never comes, but because of you veterans, we have a chance to reach our own tomorrows.”
Yesterday’s ceremony began with the posting of colors by the Saipan Southern High School JROTC, followed by the singing of the national and CNMI anthems by the Marianas High School Chorus and invocation by Fr. Ryan Jimenez.
Chuck Sayon served as the emcee while the Pacific Winds Concert Band led the pre-ceremonial music and the playing of taps.
After the welcoming and the keynote speaker’s remarks, Fitial and Russ led veterans, service members, and other guests in the laying of wreaths.
The audience also witnessed the fly-by of a B-52 aircraft out of the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron of the 36th Wing Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, coinciding with the playing of taps.
The American Red Cross-NMI Chapter provided refreshments.
David Kapileo Peter, who was in Vietnam for 33 months, said the Veterans Day Ceremony is “especially important” for him.
“Sometimes we tend to think that we’ve been forgotten for the hardships we went through. Having this activity every year reminds us that we’re not forgotten,” he said, adding that he feels “very honored” by the tribute.
“Today is our day,” said Nac Chargualaf, a retired U.S. Army. “When people recognize us, you get that sense of thankfulness. Being a veteran, I think this is the only day besides Memorial Day when we feel important.”
Ruth Coleman, who was with the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, said the recognition “gives me a little bit more energy to do more because my service didn’t go unrecognized.”
“It feels good to be appreciated by your community,” she told Saipan Tribune.
Coleman, too, believes that families play an important role in the lives of veterans and active service members.
“The veterans will not be successful if it wasn’t for their family members being there. We thank them also for all the sacrifices they make,” she said.