My wife BethKz and I traveled from our home in Western Nebraska (the panhandle near Scottsbluff) to attended the annual Veterans Day performance and luncheon for our county’s veterans at the county seat's Public School, sixteen miles/twenty-five kilometers away. One small school serves all students in all grades for the county from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Scores of active duty, reservists, veterans, and their families were treated to a luncheon served by the fourth through sixth grade students, while the high school concert and marching bands, and the elementary and high school choruses performed a selection of patriotic music. The Sons of the American Legion paraded the Colors. Businesses released veteran workers across the county to attend the event.

The luncheon was held in the centre of the school gymnasium . . . veterans, active duty, and their families were seated there, while students and citizens of the county were seated in the gymnasium bleachers for the programme. Officials of the school and the three incorporated towns here were also on hand to welcome veterans and their families. (As both a disabled veteran and appointee to my Village Board of Trustees, I was excused from greeting duties and seated with my wife at the luncheon tables.) Elementary students guided those attending through the displays.

Patriotic art projects and science dioramas from the kindergarten through third grade were on display. The winner of the sixth through eighth grade poetry and prose competition (sixth grade) also read her work, the story of her great-grandfather’s service in the Army.

About two hundred fifty residents of the county were also in attendance (based on my uneducated estimate). The county has a bit less than three thousand people.

The keynote speaker was from the Nebraska Veteran’s Cemetery of Alliance, one of the nation’s newest national veterans’ cemeteries, opened in January to serve the Nebraska Panhandle, southwestern South Dakota, and eastern Wyoming. He spoke about the reason that national cemeteries were established, after the crucial Civil War battle of Gettysburg.

Fifty thousand dead and wounded were left on the field by both Union and Confederate troops as both armies sought to escape the battle, each general believing his army was about to be overwhelmed by the other. Gettysburg at the time was no larger than Bridgeport (1,500). The citizens of Gettysburg implored President Lincoln of the overwhelming need to bury and honour the dead of both sides. President Lincoln established the first national cemetery there, and inaugurated it with the Gettysburg Address.

As the high school marching band performed each of the services’ marches, veterans (who were able) were asked to stand and receive recognition and applause for their national service. Curiously, the greatest number of veterans were from the US Navy, followed by the US Coast Guard (because we are on Nebraska’s Left Coast, apparently). Veterans of every war from World War II to Afghanistan were present.

This is the second such event my wife and I have attended since moving here last year.

James, Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class, USNavy (retired-disabled).

A Veteran - whether active duty, retired, national guard, or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including my life."—source unknown.

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