Orange County recognizes veterans with breakfast

Nov. 11, 2013 @ 03:38 PM

“We don’t do enough of it, honoring our vets,” said Peter Wehr, commander of the Civil Air Patrol. “They gave themselves, not only of their time but their bodies and sometimes their lives, their souls for the United States of America.”

Wehr was one of many who celebrated at the Veterans’ Day appreciation breakfast at the Central Orange Senior Center. Co-sponsored by the Orange County Department of Social Services, Department on Aging and Amedisys Hospice Services, the event brought together people who often are tight-lipped about their experiences.

“This gives the veterans a chance to talk to each other and talk about their service,” added Wehr. “Most of them don’t talk about their service.”

Four of the five branches of the armed forces were recognized (no one attended from the U.S. Coast Guard), including those who served in World War II, Vietnam, the Korean War and Afghanistan.

Students from Cedar Ridge High School sang the national anthem. After recognition of fallen service men and women, Cadet Daniel T. Ernandes played “Taps”.

Local elected officials on hand for the celebration included County Commissioners chair Barry Jacobs and commissioners Mark Dorosin and Renee Price.

Jesse G. Torres, a veteran who attended, is a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Al Meyer Chapter 637. He served in Vietnam and lost a brother in that conflict. Torres said that today’s veterans get a much warmer homecoming than some before them.

“The one big difference is that America has recognized that the way Vietnam veterans were treated was unfair and they have decided that they will not treat a service member that way coming home again,” Torres said. “We as veterans are committed to not letting that happen ever again.

“We as veterans need to remind America what the price of freedom is. Since we no longer have the draft, it’s a purely volunteer service, but some people seem not to be aware.”

Col. Jeff Copeland of the N.C. Army National Guard said that veterans are still giving of themselves. He said that veterans in the Wounded Warriors have worked with victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, helping them to cope with the loss of a limb.

Copeland said that the Wounded Warriors reminded the victims that it wasn’t the end but a beginning.

“Despite advances in prosthetics and medical technology, the fighting spirit and perseverance of our veterans does not come from that,” he said. “It comes from the heart.”

One way to honor veterans is by remembering their service and sacrifices, Copeland said.

“Let us always remember the 2 million veterans as the heroes they are even when the guns aren’t shooting,” he said. “Today is but one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across our country everyday. Today is a way to remember those who are no longer here. It’s a way to say we remember.”