Honoring service and sacrifice on Veterans Day


BRATTLEBORO — As it does every year, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 1034, opened its doors to the public on Saturday in celebration of Veterans Day. It was an afternoon devoted to honoring those who served in the military and, for many attendees, to reflect on patriotism.

Veterans Day originally was referred to as Armistice Day. It started on Nov. 11, 1911 — the first anniversary of World War I, "the war to end all wars."

Michael Como, the local host each Veterans Day, said Nov. 11 is one of the rare moments when people are encouraged to think about veterans, without a sense of loss; it's a joyful moment.

For many attending the Veterans Day celebration, the tradition marked an important showcase of patriotism.

"I think it's something the public ough to see," Leonard Derby, a member of the color guard and a Vietnam Veteran, said. "Patriotism is something we're learning."

He said it's important for people to keep faith in their country. In an ever-changing world, Derby believes that people seem to be forgetting the meaning of symbols like the American flag. To him, the flag represents veterans and service people, and their sacrifice to the country. He doesn't think the world remembers or respects that sacrifice like it used to.

But Saturday's celebration was all about remembering and showing respect.

Heather Choudhary, a U.S. post office worker, attended the ceremony with her husband Sanjeev Choudhary. Heather sang along to every song that was played. She's not a veteran, but she said she cares a lot about the United States and she enjoys celebrating veterans. Sanjeev had never been to a Veterans Day celebration before.

"It's an experience I cannot express in words, " he said. He said it was his number one experience since coming to Vermont, after marrying Heather, of course.

Vietnam War veteran Frank Pydych and his wife Judy also came to Saturday's observance. Frank stood and saluted whenever the color guard marched in or out of the room. He brought a piece of his family history to the Veterans Day celebration - a medal with a rainbow ribbon that had been given to his grandfather after World War I. The medallion has five bars across the ribbon to represent the different campaigns his grandfather had fought in. The medal itself featured an angel carrying a sword.

Margaret Evans, a naturalized American citizen, was also at the ceremony. She's been organizing a Memorial Day program in Dummerston for the past 22 years. When Evans talks about the United States she starts to tear up. Evans grew up in England during World War II and remembers hiding in the bomb shelters. She said that experience put into perspective for her how important the service people are.

She met her husband Bob Evans, an American soldier, at the Ritz Ballroom in Manchester, England.

"We joke that I'm his souvenir," she said.

Since coming to America, Evans said she's become very patriotic. During the Veterans Day ceremony at the VFW on Black Mountain Road, she found herself crying with pride.

Veterans mean a lot to her personally. Not only is her husband a veteran, but two of her uncles died during World War I, and both her father and brother fought to protect England.

She, like Derby, believes that the United States is less patriotic than it once was.

"I feel sorry for the young people because they don't have the beautiful pride I have for my country," she said.

When she first came to the U.S., Evans said she wasn't particularly happy about it. She had to leave her family and friends behind. But everyone she met since then has been kind to her. She said she got jobs she wasn't qualified for and was given help and choices.

"How could I not love the United States?" she said.

Harmony Birch can be reached at hbirch@reformer.com, at @Birchharmony on Twitter and 802-254-2311, Ext. 153.


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