Reasons & Remarks – Staff Reflections

The PN staff share what Veterans Day means to them

Veterans Day may come with a mix of emotions and memories for many Paralyzed Veterans of America members.

As I’ve written before, some of my fondest memories of past Veterans Days are the cards my sons made for me each year to wish me a happy Veterans Day and to thank me for my service. However, there was a bigger value in the cards’ creation.

When their mother had them sit down and craft these cards each year, it was more than just a thank you to Dad. It impressed upon them respect and appreciation for all who served — appreciation and respect they both maintain to this day.

Just as Veterans Day has a special meaning for all those who served, the staff here at PVA Publications understands the day’s significance and has observed it in various ways.

Below, I’d like to share with you some of their thoughts about what Veterans Day means to them:

Christopher Di Virgilio

Web content manager

For as long as I can remember, Veterans Day has always held a special place in my heart. Since leaving the Marine Corps, its meaning has become all the more important for
obvious reasons.

Since moving to Phoenix in 1997, I became involved with city-run events that honor our veterans. From volunteering at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona to holiday visits at the local Department of Veterans Affairs to participating in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade and even guest-speaking at local schools, I’ve been able to help keep the memories, service and sacrifices of our veterans alive.

Web content manager and U.S. Marine veteran Christopher Di Virgilio (left) with his friend, U.S Army Korean War veteran Louis Rieff.

 

I’ve met a number of veterans who have either helped shape who I am or helped guide me through the transition of returning to civilian life. One veteran in particular was a man named Louis Rieff, a U.S. Army Korean War veteran who lived in my townhome community. My favorite Veterans Days often involved Louis. I would make it a point to squeeze into my old uniform, walk to his home and give him a salute. We’d spend hours talking and carrying on about our experiences in the military, how they differed and what was the same despite the big gap in service.

Over the years, those visits turned into outings, as we would both go to the Phoenix Veterans Day parade together. From his power wheelchair, he would salute the men and women of the different branches of service as they passed in review down Bethany Home Road.

He was always so grateful to have had the chance to see the parade each year, and I was honored to share that experience with a member of one of our country’s greatest generations.

U.S. Army Korean War veteran Louis Rieff waves to fellow veterans during the 2019 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade. (Photo by Christopher Di Virgilio).

 

Louis passed away in February 2020 at age 87. His wisdom and gentle presence will be greatly missed at this year’s Veterans Day parade.

Ann Garvey

Art and production director

My son, Todd, told me about his experience when he was living in Eindhoven, Netherlands, in 2010.

Each year on Sept. 20, Eindhoven celebrates its liberation from German occupation by Allied forces in 1944 during World War II. Liberation Day includes parades, concerts and military memorabilia on display.

He said people really honored Americans and thanked him profusely for being an American and what American soldiers had done for Eindhoven on that day of liberation many years ago. He was astounded at the reverence and respect given to him because of that military liberation, and he wished Americans at home understood what a great country we live in and what sacrifices have been made for those freedoms.

Hearing that story made me think of the courageous men and women who willingly serve, not only to defend our country’s freedoms, but also to help those in other countries regain freedom when stripped of the ability to defend themselves. Veterans Day elicits in me a thankfulness and pride for our veterans wherever, however and whenever they have served. Because of their service, I am proud and thankful to be an American.

Like one saying goes, we are “the home of the free because of the brave.” Thank you, veterans!

Suzi Hubbard

Circulation coordinator

I’m embarrassed to admit that Veterans Day was just a “paid day off work/school” for me for many years. I didn’t give it the respect that veterans deserve until I became a Paralyzed Veterans of America employee.

This holiday suddenly had attendance requirements, and I was asked by my employer to attend an event of my choice to commemorate the day. As I searched my community calendars, I became aware of the many annual events and activities.   

I remember one year I invited a friend and my teenage grandson to a barbecue in Avondale, Ariz., just west of Phoenix. I was surprised and impressed with the amount of effort that went into this event. From the many booths and displays to the large circus tent with red, white and blue centerpieces, it was obvious that patriotism for our country was important to everyone in attendance.

It was invigorating to sing patriotic songs along with the band, which always brings a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat for the love and pride I have in my country. We enjoyed speeches from former commanders and a general who recounted acts of bravery and heroism. Then, a flyover occurred, and everyone stood with their hands over their hearts as we watched. 

All these activities reinforced and reminded me of the good in humanity and the sacrifices which were made by my own father and countless other men and women who also love freedom and are willing to put their lives on the line to protect it. I came away with a renewed love for my country and the veterans who, over the years, have fought to preserve the freedoms and prosperous life I get to enjoy every day.

Giving the veterans one day of respect and remembrance isn’t much to ask in return for the peace they provide to me and my loved ones 365 days a year. May we always remember.

Brittany Martin

Editorial coordinator

I’m a proud Air Force brat. With both my father (a retired colonel) and grandfather having served in the Air Force, Veterans Day reminds me of their service and gives me a chance to reflect on their sacrifices for our family and our country. Thank you, Dad!

I’m thankful and lucky to have the life I have because they love/loved their country and promised to defend it. In the words of Lee Greenwood, “Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land. God bless the USA.”

Kerry Randolph

Production and graphics/web assistant

As a Navy veteran, Veterans Day is a special day to me honoring all military veterans in any branch who served to protect our country and the sacrifices and courage that come from each person who lived or died and the stories they have.

We fight for freedom, the freedoms that we cherish as Americans. Veterans Day is a perfect day to reflect and give respect to those who lived or died for our country, including the families that have sacrificed sons, daughters, dads, mothers and time.

Simple gratitude to a veteran means so much for what they did for our country. It makes them feel like it was all worth the fight and it made a difference.

Visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., was the most gratifying way for me to pay my respects. I also enjoyed talking to veterans who had served in the wars and thanked them for their service. I don’t know the veterans, but it still feels like family or just a simple connection. The stories they tell are amazing and what some of them went through makes you appreciate them even more.

Sherri Shea

Operations manager

While I come from a family of veterans — husband, father, brother, uncle and grandfather all served in one branch or another — most of my gratitude for veterans is tied up with visits my family has made to Civil War battlefields. My husband, Brian, was a history major, and we planned vacations around battlefields — Shiloh, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Bull Run and Antietam.

The silence on the battlefields was deafening. Just thinking about the people who fought so bravely on both sides, for my country, for me, for my family. The sacrifice made by those who answered the call is overwhelming, and my appreciation of these soldiers grew with every battlefield visited.

The most memorable Veterans Day ceremony I ever attended was at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Looking down all the perfect rows of headstones brings home the true meaning of the phrase “the ultimate sacrifice.” Watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and how the guards honor their commitment to pay respects to the unknown soldiers brought tears to my eyes.

To my fellow PVA members and all those who served, I hope you can harbor a level of pride in what you did for your country and appreciate some of the sincere expressions of gratitude displayed by others. And
no matter how you choose to honor the day, may you all have a happy Veterans Day.   
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