Home News Local news Current Wars Echo Through St. Croix Veterans Day Ceremony

Current Wars Echo Through St. Croix Veterans Day Ceremony

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Nov. 11, 2006 — Families of veterans and soldiers serving overseas gathered Saturday to pay homage to the men and women who go to war.
"Today veterans look like kids who work at McDonald's or go to the university," said the keynote speaker, First U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Marvin L. Hill. "Today veterans look like your neighbor."
Hill addressed a small crowd in Christiansted at the V.I. American Legions' celebration of Veterans Day. The day began in military fashion promptly at 9:30 a.m. with a parade of soldiers marching in lockstep, peace officers, JROTC members and school groups. The uniformed group then made a path from Basin Triangle through Christiansted to a rally at the Christiansted bandstand.
With the historic facade of Fort Christiansvaern in the background, soldiers stood tall alongside civilians on the sunny morning to pay homage to those who served honorably. Students from Pearl B. Larsen Elementary School marched along with soldiers, doing their part to pay tribute to veterans. Proud parent Yvette Bermudez said 20 children were involved in the parade.
"They are representing not only their school, but giving respect to veterans who served for us," she said.
For members of the Central High School Junior ROTC, events such as this are a part of their routine. "This is a part of our curriculum," said Public Affairs Officer Donna Marquis. "We attend to give respect to the veterans."
Other attendees came to bear witness to sacrifice. "I come every year to honor the veterans," said St. Croix resident Raymond Williams. "It's a shame that more people don't come out and pay their respect to those who fight for our freedom."
With a full chest of medals flashing in the sunlight, Vietnam War veteran Antonio Sanpere stood in the crowd listening intently. Sanpere lost part of his hearing and mobility in his left arm. His proudest recollection of the war was only losing one man.
"My only concern was bringing those kids home," Sanpere said. Stories like his floated through the wind, from the speakers at the bandstand and within the crowd.
Many attendees honored soldiers who continue to serve their country in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lynette Ballantine's son Derek is 21 years old and serving a four-year term in Iraq: "Days like this mean a lot because my dad is a retired veteran, and with the war going on now we can see what it really means to fight for our country."
Her son chose to serve during this war so his son would not have to fight in future wars, Ballantine said. She asked for a special message to be sent to her son through the V.I. Source: "Happy Veterans Day, Derek, from Mommy, Daddy and your son."
The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provided a common thread for many speakers during the ceremony. "As we venture further into the 21st century, your children and grandchildren are answering the call to preserve human dignity all over the world," Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville told the crowd. Gubernatorial hopeful John deJongh said he came to the ceremony not only to honor those who have served historically but also to honor those "making a sacrifice in the current war."
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson gave a resounding "hoo-rah!" in honor of veterans, and said the day held a small amount of somberness for him: "My sadness on this day is the treatment of soldiers after they served." The lack of adequate care for the mental strain many soldiers face after war, especially in the Virgin Islands, is a sobering issue, Nelson said.
Cousins Thandi Masilela and Schanel Silvester came to the celebration with their two younger cousins, all dressed in National Guard fatigues. They came to honor family members serving in Iraq. They wanted cousins Adrian Samuel and Sandy McIntosh to know they were thinking of them and hoped they return home safely.
V.I. National Guard Brigadier General Eddy L. Charles told the crowd the current quest for peace is "all about boots on the ground." Charles encouraged those who have served to get involved when they return home. He encouraged them to access all avenues available to them as veterans.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards told listeners not to take for granted what veterans have sacrificed for our freedoms — sacrifices that may have taken their lives: "We are here to remember veterans because they have served for us without the thought of coming home."
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