Ceremonies across the area are honoring nearly 23,000,000 people who fought for freedom and survived, and others who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Veterans Day is a celebration of their service, and a way of saying "thank you."
Students and soldiers played patriotic songs, speakers shared stories of war and the struggles veterans face even after their service is over, and many veterans say they now feel proud to know how much their service is appreciated.
At South Middle School in Eau Claire, students and community leaders spoke about what Veterans Day means to them.
“Two little words that mean a lot...thank you,” eighth-grader Emma Cruciani told the crowd.
“It's also really important for everyone to like, appreciate what people have done for us because it's made our nation what it's at right now,” said eighth-grader Maddie Seymour.
Veterans stood up as students played the songs of the branch of the military they served in.
“Made you feel real proud,” said Korean War veteran Mel Weltzin.
In the afternoon, Minnesota Wire served lunch to nearly 250 veterans after soldiers played patriotic songs, and veterans heard a soldier talk about how his relatives' service inspired him to serve.
“I like the way they did everything,” said Jeffrey Traina of Chippewa Falls. “Made me feel like I'm part of something, other than just a citizen of the United States."
“The ceremony was great,” said Dave Sharretts of New Richmond.
Organizers challenged veterans in the crowd to share stories of their service with their families, so that history isn't lost.
“Just to hang around and be around people of extreme character, real leadership, it's just a thrill,” said Paul Wagner of Minnesota Wire and Minnesota Defense.
“It's important to remember just who the real stars are,” said Eau Claire County Veterans Service Officer Clif Sorenson.
Congressman Ron Kind, who attended both events, also encouraged veterans to share recordings of their stories of war as part of the Veterans' History Project. It is aimed at preserving those stories, and sharing them with future generations.
Governor Doyle was among several speakers at an event at the State Capitol on Thursday. The event was hosted by the Madison Veterans Council. The colors were presented by members of the sons of the American Revolution Color Guard and there was a concert by the VFW Band 1318 after the program.
In Chippewa Falls, a Veterans Day salute was organized by Chippewa Manor Residential Living. The manor's activity director, Cindy Tewalt says this is the second year they have organized a salute of this size. The salute featured a military flyover with in a missing man formation, a bugler, a 21 gun salute, a display of historic memorabilia, and recognition of local veterans and their families. Tewalt says we cannot thank veterans enough for their services and Thursday’s salute is a small thank you compared to what they deserve. She says the Chippewa Falls Patriotic Council also helped organize the salute.
Veterans were also honored in La Crosse on Thursday with a gun salute. Several of them shared what it means to them to have served the country and how proud they are of their fellow veterans. 80-year-old Lee Glasel, who had the honor of playing taps on his trumpet during the ceremony, says he's proud to have served in the Korean War and says he's humbled to take part in the ceremony with so many other veterans from the La Crosse area. Veterans also were treated to breakfast at the VFW Post and chili for lunch following the ceremony.
Veterans Day, which has also been called Armistice and Remembrance Day, started in 1919. It marks the end of the first world war on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the year before.