Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin offered perspective to the shivering crowd during his welcome at the Indianapolis Veterans Day service Nov. 10 at the Indiana War Memorial.
“I want you to think about those who were at Valley Forge, where it was 6 degrees and they did not have the equipment we have today,” said Goodwin, executive director of the Indiana War Memorial. “I want you to think about those who were at the Battle of the Bulge where records show that they had to start equipment — trucks and tanks — once an hour to keep them from freezing up. And, last but not least, remember those who served in the Korean War, especially the Chosin Reservoir, where it was recorded at minus 22 degrees and the equipment they had was less than beneficial.”
The ceremony highlighted veterans from throughout American history, but focused on the armistice that ended World War I, 100 years ago on Sunday, Nov. 11.
“Today, we take that sacrifice and we carry it on, from the standpoint they fought in this weather and we will celebrate in this weather,” Goodwin said.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Navy veteran, said Veterans Day represents a time to honor all veterans while paying a special tribute this year to those who served during World War I.
“There are no surviving links to that war,” Holcomb said. “And that is why it is up to us — now more than ever — to remember the men and women that served over there, because that is where all this started. Armistice Day evolved into Veterans Day. It is an opportunity for all of us to honor veterans, all who served in war and in peace, at home and abroad.”
Holcomb recalled his recent participation in the last Honor Flight out of Lafayette, 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis. World War II, Vietnam and Korean War veterans from around Indiana visited memorial sites in Washington, D.C.
“At times it’s hard for us to recognize these heroes because they take off those uniforms, those cloths,” the governor said. “They camouflage themselves right back into society. But they are here among us everywhere you look. They are neighbors. They are teachers. They are business owners, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, moms and dads. We are grateful for their sacrifice.”
U.S. Rep. Todd Young, a Marine Corps veteran, greeted his fellow Marines in the audience, “I wish you a comfortably cool Marine Corps birthday.”
Young focused his keynote speech on comparing moments in civilians’ lives to those experienced by military families.
“Veterans and their families have a unique perspective on life and death that is more finely tuned,” Young said. “Elected leaders, community leaders and other Americans deal with important decisions every day. Some are issues that can be considered life and death. Most are not.”
Young showed a bracelet that he says gives him perspective when he considers difficult decisions as a lawmaker. The bracelet was presented to Young by the mother of Lance Cpl. Alec Terwiske, a Marine from DuBois, Ind., who was killed Sept. 3, 2012, in Afghanistan.
“She asked me to wear the bracelet. I do so proudly every day,” Young said. “This bracelet helps me keep the right perspective on things that matter most. Like honoring our commitment to honor the men and women who serve this country. It takes a special person to take up arms in defense of this country. It requires a true belief, a true conviction. In the words of my fallen comrade, John McCain, ‘a cause greater than oneself.’ A desire to put your life on the line for Americans you will never meet.
“We honor all of those who have served. Today, we say thank you to Americans of all faiths.”
To honor veterans, the ceremony included a laying of a victory wreath and the tolling of the USS Indianapolis’ bell — one time for each of America’s 12 wars from the Revolution to the ongoing War on Terrorism.
American Legion Department of Indiana Commander Rodney Strong noted the importance of the centennial anniversary of the end of the Great War, which coincides with the birth of The American Legion.
“Veterans Day is very special for all of us who are veterans,” Strong said. “We recognize all of those who have passed and all of our veterans. It’s very special, especially this year — being 100 years after the armistice.”
Strong received an award from the Veterans Day Council of Indianapolis for outstanding service to The American Legion. “It’s nice to be recognized for what we have done. It’s a big honor.”
He was among dozens of American Legion Family members who participated in the parade after the ceremony.
Strong, a member of American Legion Post 72 in Crawfordsville, is proud of the support the Legion, veterans and the military community receive in Indianapolis — the city with the second-most memorials dedicated to veterans, behind only Washington, D.C.
“Indianapolis has supported Veterans Day, The American Legion and others really well,” he said. “They come out and support us.”