By MC2 Jeffrey Troutman, Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii
America’s Veterans Day ceremonies came to a close in Pearl Harbor aboard the nation’s last battleship, the historic Battleship Missouri Memorial, during a Veterans Day sunset ceremony held Nov. 11 that honored America’s veterans past and present.
The ceremony was attended by more than 400 military veterans, active duty service members and their families, and was in honor of the 70-year anniversary of the end of World War II and the 40-year anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
Several distinguished guests spoke at the ceremony in remembrance of their combat experiences and the pride they felt in serving their country.
“Every Vietnam veteran should hold his or her head high with the knowledge that, despite what popular opinion or the media would have us believe, we succeeded in our efforts during the Vietnam conflict,” said Retired Navy Capt. Gerald Coffee, a Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war during the conflict.
“God bless you and congratulations on a job extremely well done. You may not hear that from many quarters, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to hear it,” he said.
Coffee used the podium to perform a traditional Vietnam prisoner of war tap-code for the audience, in honor of his fellow veterans: “God bless and God bless America. Thank you.”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, the U.S. House Rep. for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District and a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, was a keynote speaker for the ceremony and delivered a speech about never forgetting the sacrifices our veterans make for our country.”The spirits of the brave men and women who served in America’s conflicts stand watch with us this afternoon, as our colors wave proudly in this historic harbor,” said Gabbard.
“On this day there is a lot of gratitude, as our nation is forever grateful and indebted to our fallen warriors and to those who served and made it home. It is a debt impossible to measure, but it’s a debt that is important for us to remember,” she said.
Echoing Gabbard’s sentiments was Tim Guard, the chairman of the USS Missouri Memorial Association and a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War.
“For many veterans of the Vietnam War, there were no bands or parades in their honor upon returning home, but we recognize your sacrifices to this country here today,” said Guard.
“The past 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War have seen many veterans cope and recover from the psychological effects of that conflict, but for many still, the pain and the hardships they experienced live on. It’s important that we never forget the sacrifices those veterans made for this country and honor that sacrifice with our service today,” he said.
Many current active duty service members attended the ceremony to pay their respects to the country’s fallen veterans and also to show their gratitude and support to the veterans who were in attendance.
“It’s such an honor for me to participate in today’s ceremony,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Dong Ruan, a member of the joint service color guard who participated in the event.
“This is my very first time participating in a Veterans Day event, and it’s something I’m definitely going to make a habit of doing now, to show my support to the veterans of this country,” Ruan said.
Members of the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Air Force Honor Guard also performeda special flag-folding ceremony at the event and presented the American flag that flew over the Battleship Missouri Memorial on that day to retired Air Force Col. Jack Detour.
Detour was attending the ceremony with the distinction of having served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War during his military career.
He received a prolonged standing ovation for his service as the flag was presented to him.
Many of the veterans in attendance saluted Detour as the presentation occurred.
“On behalf of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, we salute you, Col. Detour, and thank you and all veterans of war for your service to this country,” said Michael Carr, president and chief executive officer of the USS Missouri Memorial Association.
A final moment of silence was observed as the sun set over America’s last 2015 Veterans Day ceremony.