More than 100 local residents turned out for the Veterans Day ceremony on Saturday at Veterans Park in Rockville. Different groups of former service members — including disabled veterans, Vietnam vets, submarine vets and Pearl Harbor survivors — marched behind wreaths commemorating their units.
“We do this once a year, but we need to do this in our hearts 365 days a year to remember those who serve in uniform … so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we have today,” said Rockville mayor Larry Giammo. “Regardless of what we think of the purpose of the war … I want to thank you all who have loved ones in the armed forces serving overseas.”
Guest speaker Gary Cameron, who has lived in Montgomery County since 1980, served in the Air Force for four years, including a one-year tour in Vietnam when he was 20 years old.
“A U.S. military vet has packed up, left loved ones, performed his or her duty and come home without fanfare,” he said.
Cameron said visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and then visiting the beaches of Normandy helped him overcome the chasm between Vietnam veterans and World War II veterans.
“While they were two extremely different wars, the core values were the same — you went, you did your duty, and hopefully you came home,” he said.
“When I came home from Vietnam … before deploying in the jet, I changed into civilian clothes and out of military uniform,” he continued. “I deeply regret that now.”
Cameron said he is glad that today, despite a divisive political climate, civilians almost unanimously express a desire to support American troops.
“Remember these brave young people who have given their lives and the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “Some will come home unscathed, some will come home with missing limbs and have to rebuild, and some will not come home at all.”
THE COLOR GUARD from American Legion Post 86 presented the flag during the pledge of allegiance and also performed a 21-gun salute. The Rockville High School pipe band and concert band performed during the ceremony, and Reverend Stan Nelson of the Rockville Assembly of God delivered an invocation and benediction.
Bryanna Tolliver, an elementary schooler from Silver Spring, distributed red poppies to the crowd in exchange for donations to a local American Legion unit. The red poppies, which are the symbol of the American Legion, were hand-made by veterans. The donations benefit veterans and their children.
John A. Salerno and Russ Stearns, both veterans of WWII who now live in Rockville, attended the ceremony.
“He was in Asia in World War II and I was in Europe,” said Stearns.
Stearns’ father served in World War I.
“I’ve still got dad’s old steel helmet and a German helmet he brought back with him,” he said.
Don Morton, membership chair of the Washington/Rockville Elks Lodge No. 15, served in the Navy in WWII.
“I’ve always been interested in helping us vets out,” he said. “We can’t do enough for vets — they’ve been neglected badly.”