Veterans honored in area ceremonies
Posted November 11, 2011
Updated November 12, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina veterans were honored Friday in ceremonies across the Triangle that included speeches, the laying of wreaths, the playing of Taps and salutes.
Fayetteville's Veterans Day ceremony coincided with the city's 10-day Heroes Homecoming celebration in honor of Vietnam veterans.
A wreath was laid in Freedom Memorial Park, and a plaque was rededicated to 19 local prisoners of war in Vietnam, only five of whom made it home alive.
A group called Americans Who Care dedicated the plaque in 1973 in front a Fayetteville hotel that was demolished six years ago. A local business was supposed to refurbish the plaque, but the business went under and the plaque went missing.
The plaque somehow ended up in a crate bound for Thailand. A U.S. customs officer noticed it in California and thought Fayetteville would want it back, and it was recently returned.
Raymond Schrump, whose name is one of the 19 on the plaque, said he spent 1,727 days as a POW.
"I was taken into the jungle, put on my knees, (had a) pistol put to my head, and it fell on an empty chamber," Schrump said. "(That was) just to prove to you that they could take your life any time they wanted to."
The first Veterans Day ceremony also was held in the nearby North Carolina Veterans Park, which opened on July 4.
"I don't think it gets easier," veteran Joe Hrabovecky said while watching the ceremonies. "I'll always be shedding tears on Veterans Day."
The Heroes Homecoming celebration culminates Saturday with an 11 a.m. parade through downtown Fayetteville. Watch the parade live on WRAL.com.
Singer Darius Rucker headlines a Salute to the Troops at the Crown Coliseum complex Friday night.
Sarah Cockman-Myers, a combat nurse during the Vietnam war, said she came to Fayetteville from her home in Columbia, S.C., to take part in some of the Heroes Homecoming festivities.
"I've never been to (Veterans Day events) that actually gave anything for Army nurses, so this has been special for us," Myers said. "Day in and day out was morbid somewhat, but we tried to do our job quickly so we could save every life we could."
In Raleigh, Gov. Beverly Perdue observed Veterans Day in a ceremony in front of the World War II memorial on the old Capitol grounds.
"On Veterans Day, the day that we celebrate both the living and those who have gone on, we hold our hearts and our hands out to you and pledge that, indeed, in the most military-friendly state in America, we will do our part," Perdue said after laying a wreath at the memorial.
Gulf war veteran Anthony Bonapart, who helped organize the event, said it was a celebration of the camaraderie of all those who've worn the uniforms of the U.S. armed forces.
"It doesn't matter which war or if you served in peace or wartime. It's that we all served the country, and we served it with honor," Bonapart said.
Perdue also thanked the families of the 168 troops from North Carolina who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and she promised that the state would do more to help returning service members find jobs and support here at home.
About 800,000 veterans live in North Carolina.
"We call that boots on the ground, and we're mighty proud of those boots on the ground all over this great state," the governor said.
Earlier Friday, a parade wound its way through downtown Raleigh, and ROTC members at North Carolina State University held their annual run at dawn.
The Air Force Heritage of America Band will play at Memorial Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The concert is free, but tickets are required. They are available at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts box office or Raleigh's Public Affairs Department.
In Chapel Hill, nearly 80 members of the University of North Carolina's ROTC program paid tribute to veterans in a service at the Carolina Alumni Memorial, which honors those lost in military service.
On Saturday, the state will honor about a dozen war veterans who left high school to serve on battlefields by giving them special honorary diplomas at a ceremony at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville.
The state Division of Veterans Affairs and educators have given the diplomas to more than 430 service members since 2001.