Veterans Day is a U.S. holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars. Its origination dates to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when hostilities were ended temporarily during World War I. Recognized as Armistice Day for several years, the holiday became known as Veterans Day in 1938. Our own Sherry Gonzales shares her family’s rich military history and what Veterans Day means to her:
My family includes many generations that have served in the military, dating back to the Civil War and Korean War. My father’s service included three tours in Vietnam, a Purple Heart Award for his injuries in combat, and 23 years in the Army before he retired. My husband retired after serving 23 years in the Army in Air Defense; my daughter, who is the first female in our family to join the military, is actively serving as an officer in the Air Force with Cyber Security; and my son will be joining the Air Force as an officer as well. He happens to have a unique connection to Veteran’s Day – it’s his birthday!
My family is very patriotic, and we are always looking for opportunities to serve and support our military families and veterans here in El Paso. We have volunteered hundreds of hours at the Veteran Retirement Home and with one of my favorite organizations, Wreaths Across America. Volunteers show up on a cold December morning to place wreaths across thousands of graves of Veterans at all military cemeteries across America on the same day.
Semi-trucks deliver live wreaths and there are hundreds of boxes to be unloaded. Volunteers get assigned boxes with grave markers. When you lay the wreath on a grave, you read their name aloud and give them a moment of silence/pay your respects. For example, I usually say: “Merry Christmas Sergeant (insert name), thank you for your service, may you rest in peace.” It is a VERY touching and moving experience. And it’s breathtaking to see the entire cemetery covered in evergreens and red bows.
My father, my father-in-law, and my mother-in-law are buried at Ft. Bliss Cemetery in El Paso. All military cemeteries have volunteers that place flags on every grave for Veteran’s Day and for the 4th of July. It is very sobering to see an entire cemetery covered with waving flags and to reflect on what those flags represent. A lot of sacrifices were made for our freedoms, and others have paid the ultimate price. Their sacrifices should never be forgotten, nor should we take our freedoms for granted.
If you are interested in volunteering, go to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org to do a city search and find the date and time your city will be participating. You will be forever changed.
Up next: Extra Mile: Alyssa Berard