Remembered and Revered
Blinded veterans and their families throughout the country, independently or through activities organized by their regional groups, joined National President Dr. Roy Kekahuna on November 11 in honoring U.S. service members who have sacrificed to preserve America’s freedom.
Parades, memorial services, and social gatherings were all part of the BVA activities, which occurred in a host of different settings and conditions.
Tulsa residents and Sooner Regional Group members march the entire route of their city’s Veterans Day parade. At far left with white cane and in uniform, World War II veteran Winifred Dudley, followed by Jerry Letzkus (cane) and David Dowland, assisted by guide dog Nacho.
“For us who enjoyed the day in the Nation’s Capital, Veterans Day 2009 was a memorable and emotional one and, in my case at least, the rain did nothing to hamper its impact on me,” said Roy.
He was one of 25 National Commanders and Presidents representing organizations belonging to the Veterans Day National Committee (VDNC). As such, following the White House Breakfast, Roy witnessed from a tow line the traditional Presidential wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. He also sat immediately behind and to the left of the podium from which President Obama, Secretary Shinseki, and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) National President Gene Crayton addressed the standing-room-only gathering at the National Veterans Day Observance that followed.
In a steady, soaking rain following the ceremony, Roy also stood with Washington Regional Group member Jim Vale as they awaited their turn in the line of VSOs to present the BVA wreath.
“I definitely got very wet and cold, but it was an honor for me to have an opportunity to participate in something like this,” said Jim. “It’s a memory I’ll always have because of the emotion it evoked in me.”
In the Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater, President Obama praised the nation’s veterans and their families for their fierce loyalty and willingness to sacrifice all for the freedom and well-being of their countrymen.
“We honor your service and we are forever grateful,” he said. “So, to all of you—to our veterans, to the fallen, and to their families—there is no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice.”
The United States Air Force Concert Band provided a medley of patriotic musical prelude numbers, a special selection of “America the Beautiful,” and accompaniment for audience participation in a rendition of “God Bless America” prior to the retiring of the colors.
National Headquarters staff members Tom Miller, Christina Hitchcock, Steve Matthews, and Stuart Nelson accompanied the visitors to the traditional VDNC reception, hosted this year by PVA at the renowned Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, several members of the Sooner Regional Group walked 14 blocks in a Veterans Day parade, passing out candy to elementary school children along the way. The children were released from school as part of a day-long program to learn more about the meaning of Veterans Day.
“There was a large parade crowd and they were very vocal to us, thanking us each block for our service,” said Sooner group member Jerry Letzkus. “It was heartwarming and memorable.”
A bus transported the parade participants from their meeting place at the VFW post, where they were fed breakfast, to the beginning of the route. Following the parade, the same bus took them to the American Legion, where they enjoyed a barbecue lunch.