Every year, on November 11, we commemorate the brave women and men who have served our country in the various branches of the Armed Forces. Originally known as Armistice Day (as the cease-fire agreement to end World War I was signed that day), November 11 was designated as a holiday to honor World War I veterans. However, over the years, the holiday evolved into a commemoration of all veterans of all wars, with President Dwight Eisenhower, himself an Army Veteran, declaring Veterans Day to be a national holiday in 1954.
On June 28 of 2005, Navy SEAL Matthew Axelson, a native of Cupertino was killed during Operation Redwings in Afghanistan. In honor of his memory and service, the Cupertino Veterans memorial was built in 2007 as a tribute to veterans of all wars and service branches, as well as in honor of emergency first responders. In Cupertino, approximately 150 veterans and community members gathered today at Memorial Park to honor those who served and the sacrifices they made. Servicemen and women from World War II and the Korean War to more recent conflicts including the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars attended the ceremony, accompanied by the honor guards of the United States Navy, Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department, and Santa Clara County Fire Department. This year’s guest speakers included retired Rear Admirals Garry J. Bonelli and Edward K. Kristensen (the father of Lieutenant Erik Kristensen, a Navy SEAL who gave his life in Operation Redwings). Said James Black, a retired Army veteran and treasurer of the Cupertino Veterans Memorial, “I think it’s very important to honor those who served. [The Cupertino Veterans Memorial] is approaching the 10th year, and memorial park was here for a number of years before we built the structure, the statue, and the landscaping you see now. We raised the money privately, and it was built without any debt.”
Also acknowledged in the ceremony are military families and spouses, who often endure hardships and struggles alongside service members, with Rear Admiral Garry J. Bonelli (US Navy Ret.) recognizing their contributions in his keynote speech. Further touched upon was the bravery and sacrifices of many veterans, who in his words “write checks with a value up to death”, highlighting the risks that the active-duty and retired women and men of our Armed Forces are willing to take to defend our freedoms. Said Black, “I think we have an obligation to help and serve in different capacities in ways that can help the country. Our freedoms [are] protected by our military, and our culture of entrepreneurship and hard work. And the dedication of the folks [serving] in the military is unbelievable to me. Over the years, the Armed Forces have stayed strong, and it’s just an obligation that you feel”.
However, United States Navy veteran, Seaman John Buffalo, remarked, “I think as a whole, in the US, veterans aren’t appreciated enough. Memorials, they go in the right direction, so that those who are younger and growing up could be more appreciative of the freedoms they have. One thing that would be really good is showing an American flag during [these] holidays to support veterans.” Our veterans accepted the responsibility to defend America and uphold our values when duty called, so if you see a veteran any time, thank them for their service; many of the veterans present at the Cupertino Veterans Day ceremony stated, a “thank you” goes a long way.
Thumbnail Image Courtesy of Jeremy Xue.