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Laurie M. Buckhout, left, a retired Army colonel and Iraq War veteran, was the keynote speaker during the annual Veterans Day ceremony in Aberdeen Monday. Buckhout talks with Joseph Cassilly, the former Harford County state's attorney and Army veteran who was injured while serving in the Vietnam War, following the ceremony.
Laurie M. Buckhout, left, a retired Army colonel and Iraq War veteran, was the keynote speaker during the annual Veterans Day ceremony in Aberdeen Monday. Buckhout talks with Joseph Cassilly, the former Harford County state's attorney and Army veteran who was injured while serving in the Vietnam War, following the ceremony. (David Anderson/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

American veterans have experienced unimaginable dangers and hardships, plus shown incredible acts of bravery and dedication to fellow service members during their time in the military, but they still need multiple levels of care when they come back to their communities.

“While we honor those who serve, we must also care for them,” said retired Army Col. Laurie M. Buckhout, the keynote speaker at the annual Veterans Day ceremony in Aberdeen Monday.

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Buckhout, who commanded a signal battalion in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, noted veterans are “forever changed” by their experiences. Many have left the military without full retirement benefits and must rely on the federal Veterans Affairs department for their care. Buckhout described the VA as “overloaded,” though, and said the system does not always have care facilities close to where veterans live.

She said there are about 20 million veterans living in the U.S. today, including about 700,000 World War II veterans. Former service members make up 7.6 percent of the total American population, but 11 percent of the adult homeless population.

“It is here, where communities like this step in and do God’s work,” Buckhout said of Aberdeen.

She spoke to a crowd which included veterans of all branches of the military and those who served during wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq. People gathered in Veterans Memorial Park at North Parke and North Rogers Street for the ceremony, hosted by American Legion Bernard L. Tobin Post 128 and Aberdeen Memorial VFW Post 10028.

Spectators heard remarks from, in addition to Buckhout, Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady and David J. Johnson of the American Legion Department of Maryland, an invocation and benediction from local American Legion chaplains, witnessed the posting and retreating of the colors by members of the Air Force Junior ROTC unit at Kenwood High School in Essex, experienced a rifle salute and playing of “Taps” by members of the Legion Post 128 Honor Guard, and they saw wreaths placed in honor of Gold Star Families — survivors of people who died while serving in the military — and in honor of veterans of the past, veterans of the present, the future and of Homeland Defense.

Buckhout noted that families of service members “bear the hardest burden of separation and loss, and not knowing what’s going on when a veteran is deployed.”

“Today we salute, not just veterans, but those who support and sacrifice for their service members,” she said.

Buckhout said families are “the heart and soul of why we do what we do” as military service members.

Members of the Air Force Junior ROTC unit at Kenwood High School retire the colors Monday at the closing of the annual Veterans Day observance in Aberdeen.
Members of the Air Force Junior ROTC unit at Kenwood High School retire the colors Monday at the closing of the annual Veterans Day observance in Aberdeen. (David Anderson/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Examples of service

Buckhout cited former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and his four sons, who all served in the military, “as a proud example of how entire families and communities provide service for our country.”

Roosevelt, who served as the 26th president from 1901 to 1909, resigned his post as assistant secretary of the Navy and led a cavalry unit in combat in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898, according to Buckhout and the Theodore Roosevelt Center website.

Roosevelt’s son, Quentin, was an Army pilot who was killed in aerial combat over France during World War I. Archie led troops in combat during the Pacific campaign in World War II; Kermit served during World War I and returned to service during World War II — he took his own life in 1943 while in the military.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr., also known as Ted, served during World War I and re-enlisted in World War II. He was promoted to brigadier general and led troops landing on Utah Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day in June of 1944. Ted, who earned the Medal of Honor for his leadership on D-Day, died of a heart attack while serving in France in July 1944, according to the Roosevelt Center website.

“While the Roosevelts enjoyed great fame in American history, more often than not, our heroes are ordinary citizens, our neighbors, our friends — those here today — who answered the nation’s call when we needed them to,” Buckhout said.

She cited several other people who have been recognized for their actions while serving in war, conflicts that are recent and those that happened long ago. Those cited included Army Cpl. Freddie Stowers, an African-American raised in the Jim Crow South who joined a racially-segregated U.S. military. Stowers and his unit were deployed for combat in France, and he rallied his fellow troops as they took a German-occupied hill in 1918 — Stowers did not survive, as he was mortally wounded during the fighting. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1991.

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PFC Milton Olive III, an Army paratrooper, was deployed to Vietnam in 1965; he and four other soldiers were on patrol in the jungle in 1965 when they were attacked and a grenade landed nearby. Olive smothered the grenade, and while he was killed, his actions saved the lives of his fellow soldiers, according to Buckhout. Olive was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, in 1966, according to the VA’s VAntage Point blog.

Army Capt. Kimberly Hampton flew the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter. She was killed in combat on Jan. 2, 2004, when her aircraft was shot down while supporting ground troops fighting in Fallujah, Iraq; she was 27 years old, according to an article posted on the MilitaryTimes website.

“Today provides us, as a nation, an opportunity to pause and remember the service and sacrifice of so many different and remarkable people,” Buckhout said.

How communities can help

She recognized the municipal leaders present Monday, as well as leaders of local veterans’ service organization posts. She said communities such as Aberdeen can provide veterans with housing, job training, assistance with buying food, paying electricity and heating bills, financial counseling and substance abuse counseling.

“It’s usually the very young who go to war in the greatest numbers, and they haven’t had world or life experience,” Buckhout said. “They know how to fight and they know how to sacrifice, but when they come back they need us.”

Veterans come from different walks of life, but they share certain qualities such as “courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication ... all the qualities needed to serve a larger cause,” Buckhout said.

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