The true meaning of Veterans Day (w/ galleries)

KENNEWICK — Future generations of Americans must be taught the true meaning of Veterans Day, said former Finley resident Brig. Gen. William Shawver Jr. at Thursday's observance at the Regional Veterans Memorial in Columbia Park.

"We must ensure we keep America free and strong," Shawver said, who is a deputy adjutant general, director of homeland security in Idaho and director of the Idaho Air Guard.

He noted that American veterans have served their country to fight communism, fascism, imperialism, maintaining peace during the Cold War, and now against terrorism.

Almost 300 people attended the ninth-annual event held under crisp, clear skies.

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., called for Americans to remember not only veterans of past conflicts, but those "who are on the front lines in the war on terror. They deserve our thoughts and prayers for a safe return home."

Retired Army Brig. Gen. Norman Hoffman said the Columbia Park memorial, which includes a semi-circle of granite markers with a larger one in the center, was one of the best he had seen.

"It is great to see the spirit of support here. You are blessed to have this beautiful memorial," Hoffman said, who then presented a plaque of appreciation to Tom McMillin, president of the Tri-Cities Memorial Committee that built the site. "We just want to say, 'well done.' "

The memorial represents veterans from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard and Merchant Marines.

Maj. Chris Buroker, a veteran of the Army who is with the Washington National Guard and is a Kennewick police officer, talked about the role of the National Guard in supporting communities in times of need.

And Skip Novakovich spoke about the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition, a new group formed to help veterans struggling with their return home after combat.

Tom Green of Pasco, a retired chief yeoman with 21 years in the Navy, said he always attends Veterans Day observances, alternating between Pasco and Kennewick.

"They've done a good job putting this together. It is beautiful," he said.

The Knights of Columbus provided the veterans honor guard.

* John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com