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The National D-Day Memorial held its annual observance of Veterans Day on Monday at 11 a.m. with 500 people attending.
The event was held on Nov. 12 because Veterans Day fell on a Sunday this year. Originally called Armistice Day, to celebrate the armistice that ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, it was later expanded as a day to remember all living veterans. Unlike Memorial Day, the people Veterans Day honors are still alive.
And, many of them are living with serious injuries as a result of their military service.
"It's our job to help them," said April Cheek-Messier, who went on to say that this is our debt to them.
"They have put every American citizen ahead of themselves," she said. "Now it is time for us to do the same for them."
The keynote speaker was Louis Alvey, a veteran peer specialist with the Virginia Wounded Warrior program. Alvey, currently an Army Reserve 1st lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps, served two combat tours in Iraq with the Virginia National Guard.
Alvey said that there are 820,000 veterans living in Virginia and those who have served in combat have been permanently affected by it.
“You can’t un-ring the bell,” he said. “Those who go to war are forever changed.”
Alvey said there are two signature injuries from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. One is traumatic head injury from IED blasts, affecting 20 percent of returning veterans. The other is post traumatic stress disorder, affecting about 20 percent.
“For those, the battle never ends,” he said.
Alvey said all returning service members have a different path and mentioned the living veterans of our wars going back to World War II, including “our Vietnam veterans who may have had the most difficult homecoming of all.”
“May God bless our men and women in uniform and may He continue to bless the United States of America,” he concluded.
The Wounded Warrior Program connects veterans and their families with available support services. It works with veterans of all eras. For more information, call 1-877-285-1299 or go to www.wearevirginiaveterans.org.