On a warm and glorious Saturday in November, thousands gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to honor all United States veterans, in celebration of their lives and contributions during the 53rd Annual Veterans Day National Ceremony.
The somber white marble Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetary, which holds the remains of a World War I soldier "known but to God," was the site of wreath laying ceremonies this Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2006.
(Photo Credit: Tara Lynch/American Red Cross)
Overlooking Washington, D.C., in Arlington National Cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There, the somber white marble tomb holds the remains of a World War I soldier. Immediately to the west and flush with the plaza are three graves marked with white marble slabs honoring unknown soldiers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Promptly at 11 a.m., President George W. Bush laid the Presidential Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Drum rolls and bugle Taps broke the stillness around the grounds. During this part of the ceremony, Su and Jim Ferguson represented the American Red Cross. Jim is a retired naval officer and volunteer with the Red Cross. Su currently is manager of the Community Support Division for Armed Forces Emergency Services (AFES) and has been with the Red Cross for 37 years.
The ceremony continued at Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater. This year the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched an initiative, Veterans Pride, to inspire the public to express their gratitude to veterans for their service and sacrifices. As part of the initiative, the VA asked all veterans to wear their military medals and encouraged all Americans to recognize and honor all who have served.
Displaying their pride at having served as well as their appreciation to fellow veterans, a large, friendly contingent of Harley-Davidson bikers was gathered in one area. Wearing black leather vests marked U.S. Military – Army, Navy, Air Force – these reunited vets truly represented a “band of brothers,” sharing warm hugs and long-time memories among themselves even before the ceremony began and cheers through the ceremony.
Local volunteer George Saunders and Julie L. Wright, Chief Public Support Officer for the Arlington County chapter of the Red Cross in Virginia participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery following the Veterans Day service, Nov. 11, 2006.
(Photo Credit: Tara Lynch/American Red Cross)
The United States Marine Band under the direction of Lt. Col. Michael J. Colburn offered a musical prelude and accompanied the Procession and Retiring of Colors. The American Red Cross flag was carried by Julie L. Wright, Chief Public Support Officer, and volunteer George Saunders – both from the Arlington County Chapter in Virginia.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. (MOPH) was the host organization for the 2006 Veterans Day salute. Tom Poulter, the National Commander, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and offered welcoming remarks. MOPH is the only congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organization for combat-wounded veterans.
Renowned actor Gary Sinise introduced guests and members representing VA service organizations on the dais and around the amphitheater. Among those cited by the host was Joseph F. Moffatt, Executive Director of Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services and an Associate Member of Veterans Day National Committee 2006.
Sinise, one of the founders of the now famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company and his “Lt. Dan Band” (named for his character in the film Forrest Gump), has gone on numerous USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tours to Iraq and Kuwait, Qatar, Germany and Italy. He frequently visits the troops wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom at both Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and at National Navy Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Sinise recently co-founded Operation Iraqi Children, which ships school supplies to children in Iraq.
The official 2006 Veterans Day poster entitled "Honoring All Who Served."
(Image Credit: U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs)
The Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee, introduced President George W. Bush. The President expressed appreciation for the service of all those who wear a military uniform and urged people to work with local veteran groups and VA hospitals. At present, there are some 1.4 million men and women on active duty.
Following the Retiring of the Colors ceremony in the amphitheater, the audience filed out to the Tomb of the Unknowns, to observe the changing of the guard and the laying of wreaths by selected organizations. Wright and Saunders were National Color Bearers and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in behalf of the Red Cross.
Throughout Arlington National Cemetery, gravestones mark the final resting place of the brave souls who served their country in times of peace and conflict. Visitors on this Veterans Day came to honor all and acknowledge that “to be a veteran, one must know and determine one’s price for freedom.”
To learn more about American Red Cross programs and services available to veterans, active duty personnel and their families, visit the "Military Members" section on RedCross.org.
The American Red Cross is not a government agency. We rely on the assistance of caring supporters like you to deliver our critical services. You can support U.S. military members and their families through the American Red Cross as we provide assistance and comfort. Your gift will support the nationally coordinated Red Cross services provided to military families across the country and to American service men and women located throughout the world. Please make a financial donation to Armed Forces Emergency Services by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions may be sent to the American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services, P.O. Box 91820, Washington, DC 20090. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.