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A standing room only crowd of more than 200 observed Veterans Day at Centennial Hall on Wednesday to honor personnel who served or are serving in the military.
"We must heed the words of our first Commander-In-Chief George Washington," said keynote speaker and Rear Adm. Christopher C. Colvin, commander of the 17th Coast Guard District. "The willingness with which our young people will fight 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 country."
Veterans Day is the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I in 1918. The day was known as Armistice Day until 1954, when Congress changed it to Veterans Day to honor all veterans.
"I have to come down here once a year," said Korean War veteran Cpl. Harold Wheaton. "It's the only time I see these guys. After you get in you make friends for life."
Wheaton was stationed in Alaska and had basic training at Excursion Inlet. Patrick Wheaton, his grandson, is serving in Iraq. Friend and fellow war veteran John Larson was posted in Korea.
"This day means a lot to all the men who fought or are fighting for our country," Larson said. "Freedom comes at a price. If I had to do it all over, I would do it the same way."
After the event, the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans marched along Willoughby Avenue to the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall for another recognition of Alaska Native veterans and veterans of the Vietnam War. Iraq War veteran Nick Henderson shook their hands as they filed into the ANB Hall.
"Seeing all the veterans is one thing," Henderson said. "Seeing all the support, the families and community coming out and paying tribute to the men and women in uniform has always touched me. It's nice to see the communities are swelling with pride."
Inside, extra chairs were needed for guest speaker Attorney General Dan S. Sullivan, honor certificate presenters Sen. Albert Kookesh and Rep. Bill Thomas, and the Woosh.ji.een Dance Group.
"I think this shows that we have a lot of concern for the safety of a lot of our veterans who still continue to come home," Vietnam veteran George Bennett said. "But at the same time we have an opportunity to grieve for the ones who never made it back."
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