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Service members across Okinawa observe Veterans Day
Members of the Kadena Honor Guard and Junior ROTC salute the NATO, American and Japanese flags after reveille is played during the Veterans Day ceremony at the 18th Wing headquarters building on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Nov. 12, 2012. Following the raising of the flag and the Japanese and American national anthems, a representative from each service recited their branch's creed and guest speakers shared their experiences with the crowd. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Hailey R. Davis)
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Service members across Okinawa observe Veterans Day

Posted 11/11/2012   Updated 11/11/2012 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Hailey Davis
18th Wing Public Affairs

11/11/2012 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- It's a cool November morning on Okinawa, Japan, and as the rest of the Island stirs around them, it seems as though time stands still as Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and even veterans from wars long ago gather for a ceremony at the 18th Wing headquarters building to observe Veterans Day Nov. 12.

As the sun rises over the building, Kadena Honor guardsmen and Junior ROTC members stand at the base of the flagpoles. A Marine bugler stands to the left of a formation of Marines, preparing to perform Reveille and Taps during the ceremony.

Veterans Day is a day dedicated to the men and women who have served and are currently serving around the world for the freedoms and liberties of all American citizens.

"The flag stands for peace, honor, truth, justice and freedom," said Master Sgt. Quincy Harper, 18th Munitions Squadron first sergeant and master of ceremonies, as he explains the significance and of the American Flag during the ceremony. "It has been placed in the trembling arms of a grieving parent at the grave of their fallen son or daughter. It is flown at half-staff to honor our military members."

In the distance, the sound of a U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk can be heard making its way to the field just beyond the flagpoles.

"The flag has flown in every battle of every war for more than 200 years," the first sergeant continued as members of the 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadrons get into position and prepare to present the American flag which represents so much. "It has flown in Valley Forge, Gettysburg and Shiloh. It was waived at Okinawa, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and it is being waived right now in Afghanistan and Iraq."

As the Pave Hawk hovers over the field, 31st RQS pararescuemen rappel from the helicopter, carrying the American flag for presentation to the Kadena Honor Guard.

"Every year in November we come together on this day to celebrate the accomplishments, the sacrifices and the lives of the people who have served this great nation in the armed forces, the Army, Air Force, Navy and the Marines," said Barbara Turner, veteran and University of Phoenix director of Academic Affairs. Dr. Turner spoke at the ceremony regarding her experiences in the military and the sacrifices she made during her career.

Established as Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson Nov. 11, 1919, he said, "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory."

Though the day was founded to honor veterans of World War I, more than 400,000 American service members soon gave their lives in World War II. President Dwight Eisenhower later changed the day to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all veterans from all U.S. conflicts, past and present.

"It means a lot more now that I'm actually a veteran and have had friends that have given the ultimate sacrifice downrange," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Mott, a 31st RQS pararescueman. "It's important to take a day to remember those guys and honor the sacrifice that they made and honor those who have put themselves in harm's way and are willing to pay that sacrifice."

Once the flags had been raised, and speakers gave their remarks in honor of veterans both past and present, Brig. Gen. Matthew Molloy, 18th Wing commander, Don Allen, Okinawa American Legion commander and Dennis Provencher, Okinawa Veterans of Foreign Wars commander, placed the POW/MIA wreath at the base of the flagpoles and rendered salutes as the bugler solemnly performed TAPS.

"In retrospect, most of us are unaware of the differences we made or the lives that we touched, great or small, we left our mark," Turner said. "The choice we made and the legacy we live continues to live on in the men and women who serve today and to those that will serve in the future."

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