President Obama asked all Americans recently to make an extra effort to honor our veterans this Memorial Day. While I have many reasons and many relatives that always make me think about veterans and service on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Obama’s invitation prompted me to go to the Memorial Day Program at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. It was a good decision.
There were veterans, young and old, many decorated (including the 8% who are women). They came from every branch of the military and stood in turn while a band played the song of each branch
In the photo above you can see Representative and Vietnam veteran Leonard Boswell; keynote speaker, Iowan, Vietnam veteran and ex-POW, now retired Lt. Cmdr. Larry Spencer, and Vietnam Veteran Marty Cardines of Des Moines, all standing in front of Patrick J. Palmersheim, Executive Director of the Iowa Department of Veteran Affairs. and 1st Lt. Martha Kester, a Chaplain in the Iowa Army National Guard (seated). Cardines (shown below and left) received medals for service and exceptional courage in Vietnam. His actions in Vietnam were exemplary, but his records were not carefully kept. It has taken decades for the bureaucracy to catch up, but catch up it did, and everyone present was honored to be part of the recognition ceremony.
Near the end of the ceremony National Guard member, Edwin Gonzalez (whose photo is shown below), a native of Honduras, was sworn in as a U. S. citizen. He is scheduled to be deployed overseas within two months. He was happy and proud.
Retired Lt. Cmdr. Spencer, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War and ex-POW offered comments with grace and humor, understating the difficulties he experienced as a prisoner of war. He emphasized the importance of communication, of community in the home and in the service, and of the joy of being part of Iowa and the Midwest. He closed by saying that any day that you wake up, look at the door to your bedroom, and find a knob on the inside, you know it is going to be a good day.
photos by James G. Lindberg