Veterans Day marked with parades, somber ceremonies
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — First responders and law enforcement personnel stood with heads bowed Saturday in Sutherland Springs for a Veterans Day ceremony that was also meant to honor the more than two dozen people killed a block away at a church.
About 100 people attended the ceremony outside the town’s community center, where a wreath was placed near flags to remember those killed in last weekend’s mass shooting, nearly half of whom had ties to the Air Force.
“Maybe this will start the healing process that will get Sutherland Springs and Wilson County to put this horrific tragedy behind us and look to the future,” county Judge Richard Jackson told the gathering, his voice breaking.
Jackson, the county’s top administrator, thanked the first responders and others who rushed to First Baptist Church in the aftermath of Sunday’s shooting.
The attacker, Devin Patrick Kelley, killed 25 people — authorities put the number at 26 because one was pregnant — and wounded 20 others.
Kelley, 26, died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being shot and chased by two men who heard gunfire from the church.
After the ceremony Saturday, members of a fire and rescue squad stood in a circle, put their arms over one another’s shoulders, and prayed. A wreath was placed near flags to remember those killed.
In parks, war memorials and on streets across the country, politicians and citizens gathered to honor those who have served in the military. In New York City, which hosts the largest Veterans Day parade in the country, astronaut Buzz Aldrin served as grand marshal, joining Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Air Force’s highestranking woman at Saturday’s parade.
“It’s beautiful, so many people,” said Aldrin, who rode in a convertible and waved to the crowds gathered on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Aldrin, 87, served in the Air Force and was the second man on the moon, piloting the Apollo 11 and following Neil Armstrong onto the lunar surface in 1969.
Air Force Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski also attended, along with hundreds of other veterans who marched in the cold. One of the World War II veterans who rode in a float held a sign that read “Thank you for remembering.” In Washington, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, carried orange buckets with the message “Let’s Do This” to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, joining several dozen volunteers to give it a cleaning.
The Pences spent about 40 minutes just after dawn Saturday wiping down the memorial wall engraved with the names of fallen troops. “This is a great way to start Veterans Day!” the vice president declared. He shook hands and posed for photos with the volunteers.
The group was joined by James Pierce, a National Park Service ranger who lost a leg while serving with the North Carolina Army National Guard in Afghanistan.
First responders pray Saturday during a gathering in Sutherland Springs, Texas.