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Salazar speaks to vets

Amanda Holt MillerWestern Garfield County Staff
Photo by Amanda Holt Miller
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RIFLE – Democratic Congressman John Salazar made a special appearance to honor the veterans at the Colorado State Veterans Home Friday.The cafeteria was filled with men and women, many wearing their uniforms from their days in various branches of military service. Some residents were joined by their relatives, many of whom were also dressed for the occasion.Keith Clemons attended with his mother, who lives at the veterans home. His father, who served in World War II and the Korean War, died last October, just before Veterans Day. “I guess this is my way of thanking the veterans,” Clemons said. “It’s a great ceremony. It really honors what they did for us.”Salazar said he came to the event because he wanted to honor the veterans from the rural areas in his district and he wants to show his support for the facility.”There are only a few places like this in the state,” Salazar said after the ceremony. Salazar, who represents the state’s Third Congressional District, was preceded at the podium by Republican State Rep. Al White, who also spoke at a veterans event at Rifle High School Friday.White thanked the veterans for their service and spoke about the history of the Veterans Day, which began as Armistice Day in 1919 after World War I. The name of the day changed after World War II to honor all military veterans. When Salazar took the stage, talking about current political issues, including the war in Iraq and the battle in Congress to ensure money for veterans’ health care.”I’d like to tell you about someone who was the greatest hero in my life,” Salazar said, shifting to a more personal subject. He told the story of his father, who left the farm as a young man and fought in World War II. He was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. When he returned home, he lived on a ranch with his wife and eight children, all of whom he made sure got a college education.”One morning we were sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast. He came of the bathroom carrying his WWII staff sergeant uniform and said ‘this is the uniform I want to be buried in.’ That man was my father.”Two years later Salazar’s father suffered a major heart attack.”With the last ounce of strength he had he told me he loved me,” Salazar told the crowd. “And with his last breath he whispered one word, ‘uniform.’ There were two things he had not forgotten. He did not forget the love he had for his family and he did not forget the love he had for his country.”With that, Salazar thanked his audience, not for its attention, but instead for the service of its members.”Today, you are my greatest heroes,” Salazar said. Both Salazar and White are military veterans.To conclude the ceremony, Annie May read the names of veterans and their spouses who passed away in 2005. Millie Greenwald, who regularly leads faith services, offered the final benediction.”Please guide and protect and bring them home again,” Greenwald prayed for the young soldiers in the Middle East. “And thank you for protecting everyone here. You brought them home without paying the ultimate price.”Contact Amanda Holt Miller at 625-3245 ext. 103ahmiller@postindepedent.com


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