Families and strangers, youth groups and veterans, and people of all political persuasions came together Friday at Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater to honor the men and women who have served this country.
The National Veterans Day Observance ceremony featured a traditional laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and remarks by President Barack Obama.
Even among the younger attendants, it was a time of reflection.
“It’s important because you get to honor your country,” said 14-year-old Leon Wilcox, one of 50 Navy ROTC cadets who came to the ceremony from Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville, Md.
“I get to honor my relatives – I’ve had a lot in the military who have died,” he said. “It’s important to remember what they did and why they served our country.”
As 5,000 people slowly filtered into the amphitheater, retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Joe DeCavage quizzed Wilcox and the rest of his students on the history of Veterans Day.
“We try to make them better citizens, teach them a little patriotism – something that is sorely lacking in today’s youth,” DeCavage said
A few rows back, a small group from Westside Baptist Church in Berea, Ky., sat quietly, waiting patiently for the ceremony to begin.
“It’s 11-11-11. And I’m a veteran,” said retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Wallin, 71, of why he traveled to Arlington. “And I thought it’d be an opportunity for me and my fellow veterans to pay tribute to our fallen, as well as our living.”
Numerous military and veterans groups filled the amphitheater.
Some were there to observe – members of each branch stood as the U.S. Army Band played the songs for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
Others came to participate.
Charles Chipley and Glenn Wienhoff volunteered to represent the Korean War Veterans Association in the procession of colors. Their chapter, out of Frederick, Md., has represented the national group for six years.
“It’s great,” Chipley said. “We gladly volunteer.”