This past Saturday, Nov. 4, was the date set aside at the Museum of Veterans and Military History in Vilonia, to hold a Veterans Day ceremony.
This holiday started as a day to reflect upon the heroism of those who died in our country’s service and was originally called Armistice Day. It fell on Nov. 11, because that is the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. However, in 1954, the holiday was changed to "Veterans Day" in order to account for all veterans in all wars.
One of the aspects of the ceremony at the museum is to invite veterans to post flags for fallen Arkansas soldiers. Those fallen soldiers’ faces and their stories are posted on stakes and during the Parade of Veterans a veteran who made it home carries a flag, stands and post behind the display, for the fallen soldier. It is a patriotic scene. While only 100 fallen and 100 living are honored with the flag and ceremony, due to limitations, all are held in high regard as well as their families. Some of the fallen soldiers’ stories on display are random, found on a military website, while others are handpicked. Those handpicked are done so for only one reason, and that is to allow their family members to be a part of the program. Here are just a handful of local fallen soldiers and stories displayed on the stakes:
—Army Sgt. Jason M. Swindle, 24, of Cabot, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga. Died in Panjwa’l, Afghanistan, from injuries he sustained from a rocket-propelled grenade attack during a mounted patrol.
—Army Spc. Joseph A. Richardson, 23, of Booneville, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kan. Died in the Paktika province, Afghanistan from injuries suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a homemade bomb and small arms fire.
—Cpl. Loren Buffalo, 20, of El Paso, Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. Died of from wounds suffered after enemy forces attacked his unit with a roadside bomb.
—Sgt. Michael R. Sturdivant, 20, Conway. Civil affairs specialist with the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion out of North Little Rock. Died in Kirkuk, Iraq, of wounds suffered in a Humvee accident.
—Army Pvt. Nathan Z. Thacker, 18, of Greenbrier, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Died in Kirkuk, Iraq, when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle.
—Army Cpl. Zachary D. Baker, 24, of Vilonia, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Died in Abu Sayda, Iraq, with four others when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.
—Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Patrick Kordsmeier, 49, of North Little Rock, Support Battalion HQ, 39th Infantry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Died in Taji, Iraq, during a rocket attack.
On the other side, the 100 veterans posting for their fallen comrades include Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard both current and retired. Both, men and women as well as some Gold Star Family members. Veterans who served in war and peacetime are also among those posting.
Many Veterans Day programs are on tap for the weekend—a day to stand united in paying respect to all veterans.
For those who can’t make it to a ceremony, the museum in Vilonia will be open for touring. Located at 53 N. Mt. Olive, the museum hours are 9 to 4, Fridays and Saturdays. Also, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., on the first Sunday of the month. No charge to tour. For information, call 501-796-8181.