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"Heroes in our crowd:" Veterans Day celebration honors those who served

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Shell casings fly as the American Legion Post 6 honor guard fires a 21-gun salute outside of the Cheyenne Veterans Day ceremonies Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, at American Legion Post 6 on Lincolnway in Cheyenne. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – At the American Legion Post 6’s Veterans Day ceremony Monday, Col. Damian Schlussel asked veterans to raise their hands if they served during specific periods of time.

As he called out World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Gulf War and the War on Terror, hundreds of veterans who have sacrificed their time, comfort and safety proudly raised their hands.

“We have heroes in our crowd,” said Schlussel, commander of the 90th Security Forces Group at F.E. Warren and guest speaker at the Veterans Day event.

Nearly 500 veterans, friends, family members and community supporters turned out at the American Legion Post 6 on Monday to celebrate and honor those who have served our country. The Post 6 Honor Guard conducted a posting of the colors, state and local officials gave remarks, and the ceremony closed with a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.

“It is an absolute honor to be here today among the folks that are in this room and the history that is in this room,” Schlussel said.

Post 6 Commander Bill Barnes asked the crowd to think about the story of each veteran in the room. He told combat stories of “the exceptional and the extraordinary,” noting that there are millions more out there that need to be heard.

“Every single woman and man who has raised their right hand and pledged to give their life if their country had needed, did so for a reason. Ask them why,” Barnes said.

The room was full of hundreds who have experienced history firsthand, whether it was during World War II, Vietnam or another battle. Generations of service members sat in the audience together. Among those in the crowd was Col. Schlussel’s father, a veteran himself.

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Doug Gumm, a veteran of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, holds his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance as Cheyenne celebrates Veterans Day on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, at American Legion Post 6. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

“I’m proud to follow in his footsteps of service, and I’m honored that he was able to be here today to be part of this event,” Schlussel said.

As the local and state representatives gave their remarks, the deep military connection in Wyoming was evident. Gov. Mark Gordon spoke about his sister-in-law and cousin, both veterans, and Mayor Marian Orr talked about growing up on McChord Air Force Base in Washington state. Both agreed that military ties run deep in this state.

“That’s something that we say in Wyoming – it is a family matter,” Gordon said. “Everyone here knows and cares about our veterans. We will always remember.”

Orr said her Facebook page was flooded with friends and former classmates posting about their parents or their children, noting that some military families here span four generations of veterans. She said the support for service members in this community speaks for itself.

“Today was standing room only, and that’s not unusual,” Orr said.

For the second year, NuVision Credit Union funded a free lunch after the ceremony. Emily Jackson said serving veterans is the focus of NuVision’s community initiatives because there isn’t “a more deserving community.”

Supporters showed up from community groups and agencies like the Cheyenne Elks, YMCA, Cheyenne Police Department and Laramie County Sheriff’s Department. To honor veterans, each donated an intricate floral wreath, many of which contained the poppy flower that serves as a symbol for the sacrifice of war. Gordon and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., donated wreaths, as well.

As Barrasso addressed the crowd, he remembered his visit with Wyoming troops overseas in places like Kuwait and Kosovo earlier this year.

“We have, right now, one of the largest deployments in the history of Wyoming serving in the Middle East,” Barrasso said, noting that 390 Wyoming military members are currently serving there. “They will be away for Thanksgiving. They will be away for Christmas. They will be away for New Year’s.”

The senator said there are three reasons to visit with the soldiers overseas. First, you thank them for their service. Second, you ask if they need anything. The third, and arguably most important reason, is to pass along the support of their friends and family back home.

Barrasso said, “You go to remind them that the people of Wyoming are with them and behind them every step of the way, and always will be.

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Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter @MargaretMAustin.

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