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Veterans honored at ceremonies

The deep, resonating sound of a late-morning bell signaled the commencement of Veterans Day ceremonies for those sitting in their chairs inside American Legion Post 31 in Boulder City.

It was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The holiday that emerged from Armistice Day, when Germany agreed to a ceasefire with the Allies of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, was officially amended to Veterans Day in 1954.

Approximately 80 people of all ages sat and listened to the hourlong ceremony at the American Legion post. Some of them older who proudly wore their service hats, others still in elementary school who took in the ceremony during their day off from class.

Boulder City resident Jerry Sparks, who served in the Air Force from 1958-78, spoke of the importance of honoring those who served to protect the freedoms the U.S. has come to expect.

Sparks spent four years overseas during the Vietnam War where he witnessed the horrors of war up close. One moment in particular haunts him. Even 45 years after it happened, his eyes welled up with tears and his voice became hushed when reaching back for the recollection he’s tried to erase from his mind for so long.

“South Vietnamese girl. Early 20s. She’s got her baby in her arms. The baby’s less than a year old. She’s laying on the ground, and a North Vietnamese soldier took a piece of bamboo and it went through both of them. And there they lay, stuck there together. Dead,” he said.

For Sparks, Veterans Day brings back memories he’s had to live with forever. Some good, others not so much. He spoke of the caskets lined up in the streets of Vietnam as the casualties piled up.

“Sometimes you’d have two, sometimes you’d have a dozen or more,” he said. “Pretty soon death was such a reality. It starts to affect you.”

Sparks remembered how several U.S. troops returned from Vietnam, only to be treated poorly. It’s one reason he’s so passionate about Veterans Day.

After the ceremony, which consisted of a tribute to prisoners of war and those missing in action, as well as two patriotic songs sung by children from Boulder City and Henderson, Sparks shared stories with a few of his fellow veterans, as well as those who were just eager to listen.

“People should be aware of what this day means,” he said. “What does it mean to me personally? It means this country’s free. Without our military, we’d be speaking German or something. Who knows? It means we are a free country thanks to our veterans.”

Down the street, past the numerous American flags lined up along Nevada Way, hundreds of people gathered at the Nevada State Veterans Home to honor those who served. Those in attendance included Rep. Joe Heck, newly elected state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, newly elected Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“In a world filled with conflict, we meet in peace because of the commitment and sacrifice of our veterans,” Sandoval told the crowd. “We will do everything we can. We owe you nothing less.”

The Nevada Opera Theater Chorus sang every branch’s respective song as members from each branch stood up and sang along. Veterans also stood and were honored for serving in each U.S. conflict since World War II as the audience’s cheers brought smiles to their faces.

Lt. Col. David Seitz of the Air Force spoke of his own war experiences, as well as the importance of continuing to honor those who fought for freedom in the United States.

“Together, we are all on a team. And together is what makes our team the best in the world,” Seitz said. “To each of you who have served and sacrificed for this great country, I salute you. If not for you who served before my fellow service members and I, we would not be able to continue this great legacy we call the United States of America.”

Contact reporter Steven Slivka at sslivka@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow @StevenSlivka on Twitter.

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