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Veterans Day: 'Thank You to All the Servicemen'

Monday, 11 November 2002 12:00 AM

"This day is more important for me now. Before this happened, we never had anyone in our family that was a veteran," said Karen Amundson of Hartville, Mo., whose son, Army Spc. Craig Amundson, was killed in Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon. "Craig's picture will be up with the rest of the veterans who were sent over to the front lines. They knew what might happen, but what happened to Craig was totally unexpected," said Amundson.

Terrorism has brought a new kind of war and a new kind of veteran to America.

"Today, we are engaged in a war unlike any other America has fought. But while the enemy may be different, the reasons to fight are the same," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said.

On Veterans Day, government officials and school children alike attend parades, ceremonies and services to thank to the veterans of yesterday and the soldiers of today.

"Thank you to the men and woman who have selflessly served America. They selflessly put aside their day-to-day activities to serve," said Anthony Principi, secretary of Veteran's Affairs and a Vietnam veteran. "Nine-eleven was a turning point in our history, a recognizance that war has many forms ... once again, the finest people are called; they work to extinguish the scourge of terror from our world."

Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, first celebrated the ending of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.

A year after Congress declared it a holiday in 1938, World War II began, and over 16 million men and women were mobilized. By 1945, more than 400,000 were killed and almost 700,000 were wounded.

After the Korean War, in which 55,000 were killed and twice as many were wounded, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day to honor the veterans of all America's wars.

Today, for some of America's 8 million veterans of the Vietnam War, Veterans Day makes painful memories raw once again.

"I know a lot of those names on the wall, and the older I get the more vivid it becomes," says Vietnam veteran David Grimes, 54.

Grimes, a Washington, D.C., native, was drafted after high school to serve as a medic at Cam Ranh Bay. He has flashbacks of his experience on body-bag detail, and of trying to save soldiers hit by "scrap" metal or burned by gas bombs.

"Veterans Day is the best thing that the government has done to honor the veterans," Grimes says.

But he still calls on the Department of Veterans Affairs to give more support to veterans like him who struggle with homelessness, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The VA is there for them. It is the agency that has to responsibility to help veterans to overcome their problems," says Principi, who oversees a budget of $51 billion for Veterans Affairs' medical and outreach programs. Veterans make up one-third of the country's adult homeless male population.

The war of the last decade, the Gulf War, added almost 2 million veterans to America's total. The fact that many of those veterans claim to suffer from nerve, skin and muscular disorders has been a recent controversy for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

But Gulf War veteran Michael Walker, 22, puts all this aside on Veterans Day. This year he has taken a day off his job waiting tables to go to the Vietnam Memorial in honor of his fellow Marines.

"I want to say thank you to all the servicemen out there for what they're about to do," Walker says, thinking of the troops in Afghanistan. "Good luck, and keep your head up."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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This day is more important for me now. Before this happened, we never had anyone in our family that was a veteran, said Karen Amundson of Hartville, Mo., whose son, Army Spc. Craig Amundson, was killed in Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon. Craig's picture will be up...
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Monday, 11 November 2002 12:00 AM
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