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SOUCHERAY: Remembering veterans past and present

When I think of Veterans Day, I remember hearing the stories about my maternal great-grandmother who took a ship to France after World War I to see the graves of her sons who were killed in action. Mind you, that was after she had taken a train from central South Dakota to board a ship in New York City.

The picture I have seen of her is so matter-of-fact. She is not weeping or looking upset, but rather resigned to the truth of what had happened. She looked grateful for the opportunity to visit their graves.

When I think of this picture in my parent's picture room, designed to commemorate a pictorial history of our family, I am moved with wonder. I ask myself how she could leave her sons, buried in the ground in a foreign country, so far from her own? And how she could express acceptance rather than anger, horror, or deep grief and sadness?

Perhaps she felt those things. In the picture, however, she seemed to exude a sense of pride. Her sons had offered the best of themselves for the freedom of a country they loved: their lives. We remember all veterans today, November 11, as a day to honor and respect the men and women who have served of our country in the military.

This is a day to extend our gratitude for the sacrifices they made on behalf of the liberty we enjoy in our nation. If you would like to attend a ceremony to honor our veterans today, you may go to the east side of the main parking lot of Woodbury City Hall on Valley Creek Road. You will find the Woodbury Veterans Memorial, which was built in 2007, at this site. The ceremony will begin at 3 p.m.

The Woodbury Veterans Memorial was collaboratively built by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the local Lions Club. It displays 10 flags: one for each branch of the service, an American flag, flags representing Woodbury and Minnesota, and one that remembers the POWs and MIAs, all surrounding a stunning memorial. At the base of the flags and memorial are pavers, on which are etched the names of approximately 250 local men and women who served our country in the military.

The memorial is placed near Woodbury City Hall and the fire and police stations, in a region that represents the community's core civic area. The flags and memorial are visible from Valley Creek Road, but to have a moving experience of the sacredness it holds, a short visit to the site is in order. Simply turn in to the city hall parking lot on Valley Creek Road, directly across from City Centre, and drive to the east side of the lot. You can park and walk to the memorial area. A visit will take between 10-15 minutes as you read the names on the pavers and experience the sanctity of the space.

If you can take your children or grandchildren to experience the site, it will be moving and memorable for all of you. Then, this spring, when you see a veteran selling poppies at local merchants in Woodbury, you can talk with them about their memories of the service they experienced. If you take a poppy, you may also make a donation to the veteran's causes. If you have a small amount of time, go to the Internet and research the poppies of Flander's Field in France during World War I, which is the impetus behind this little red flower the veterans sell.

Take time this Veterans Day to educate your children and grandchildren about the commitment others have made to fortify our freedoms in this country. Use today to help inspire and encourage them to give of their best for our country, just as all the veterans have done.