Patriotism up in wake of attacks
Awash in patriotism that has surged since Sept. 11, Veterans Day celebrations across the nation bustled with heavy turnout and raucous cheer or proceeded with renewed solemnity and reverence.
In the tiny resort town of Branson, Mo., the sidewalks were stacked four deep on Sunday; its 6,000 residents were expecting some 150,000 guests.
An unusually warm wind blew over the sea of mostly red, white and blue which marked the 67th year that bands, color guard units, floats, and soldiers have paraded through on Veterans Day.
In New York City, patriotic spirit energized the once-fading ritual of military veterans and politicians marching through midtown Manhattan. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg were cheered on as they laid a wreath at Madison Square Park, the starting point for the 18-block parade.
"It is a day in which all New Yorkers and all Americans now understand, maybe better than ever, what our veterans have done for us," Giuliani said.
In Phoenix, Ariz., more than 100 people gathered outside the Heard Museum for an American Indian gourd dance. Warriors traditionally participated as a way of showing thanks for having survived and remembering the dead.
"I'm thanking the good Lord for my return and the return of others," said Danny Jenkins, a dancer who served in the Vietnam war.
In Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney made a pilgrimage to Arlington National Cemetery, placing a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns and promising victory in the war on terrorism.
"Americans have no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead," Cheney said. "We cannot predict the length or the course of the conflict. But we know with absolute certainty that this nation will persevere and we will prevail."
At a solemn gathering at the Statehouse in Concord, N.H., Brigadier General Benton Smith of the New Hampshire National Guard said this year's observances held special significance because Veterans Day fell on an anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
"Today, we acknowledge that freedom costs long after the guns go silent," Smith said. "We now face our most insidious enemy ever -- terrorism. We simply cannot apply logic to understand their motives."
Many veterans said they have enjoyed a newfound respect since Sept. 11. Wisconsin Army National Guard Commander Brig. Gen. Kenny Denson helped dedicate a monument in Richland Center, Wis., to the Purple Heart, given to members of the armed forces wounded or killed in combat.
Denson received the award after he was shot down over Vietnam, but remembers changing into civilian clothes on his way home from his second combat tour so people wouldn't recognize him as a veteran.
"You got called some very nasty things in the airports before you even got home to see your mom and dad," Denson said.
But with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Americans are thinking more favorably about military men and women, Denson said.
Patriotism took one Dallas man by surprise: Paul Wills was changing buses at Union Station on Saturday when he heard the rat-a-tat-tat of drums coming from a nearby parking lot where hundreds of veterans, police officers and others had gathered to start the annual parade.
When they took to the streets, so did Wills, who missed his bus to cheer them on.
"It's good to be in this country," Wills said. "I'd rather be here than anywhere else."