SOUTHFIELD — Standing before a crowd of veterans, residents and community leaders on Nov. 10 in honor of Veterans Day, Lt. Col. Helen Harris made it very clear what the purpose was of gathering.
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation,” she said.
But those words were not hers.
The executive officer of the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base was quoting George Washington — a sentiment that was evoked more than 200 years ago. Those words ring true today, Harris said.
“Sadly, it’s 2011 and we are still a nation at war,” Harris said. “Our men and women in uniform both past and present have been, and are, the most powerful line of defense in all conflicts against enemies who set out to destroy our way of life. No single military power in history has done greater good, shown greater courage, liberated more people, or upheld higher standards of decency and valor than the armed forces of the United States of America.”
Harris shared the history of Veterans Day with the crowd, as the keynote speaker of the annual service. First known as Armistice Day, it marked the end of World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918. Years later, after more wars, the name was changed, and Nov. 11 was declared a national day of remembrance by Congress in 1954.
The city of Southfield makes a point to recognize the holiday every year with a special service.
“We want to make sure there’s never a time when our voices are not heard, how much we appreciate the contributions and sacrifices that (veterans) have made,” said Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence.
The service included a medley of patriotic songs performed by the Southfield-Lathrup High School advanced choir. It included a wreath-placement ceremony in the Veterans Memorial Gardens, followed by a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.
“America is fortunate to have service members who exemplify commitment to duty, willingly display valor under fire, and favor humility over glory,” Harris said in her remarks. “This notion of selflessness and sacrifice — the likes of which are exhibited each and every day by airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and coast guardsmen — is the bedrock of our all-volunteer force. The true strength of our military lies in the spirit and skill of the men and women who have served our nation. They have answered the call to duty from all across America. There is pride in developing one’s character and becoming a leader, serving a cause for greater than any self-interest and knowing that our nation’s cause is the hope of the world. Every man and woman who has ever worn America’s uniform is part of a long, unbroken line of achievement and honor.”
These men and women deserve our appreciation, Harris said, and not just on Veterans Day.
“While it is important and proper that we mark this day, it is far more important we spend all our days determined to keep the promises that we’ve made to all who answer this country’s call,” she said. “I thank everyone who has worn a U.S. military uniform for their honorable service and for our freedom. Let us all go from this place with our heads held high, our spirits lifted, and with pride in our hearts for what our veterans have done to preserve the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
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