Veterans Day marked with pa­rades, somber cer­e­monies

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Clau­dia Lauer and Emily Sch­mall

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.

ERIC GAY/AP

First re­spon­ders pray Satur­day dur­ing a gath­er­ing in Suther­land Springs, Texas.

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