Lawton honors local and national veterans

Lawton_Veterans day: a time to honor those who have fought our nation's battles, and remember those who lost their lives doing so. Across Southwest Oklahoma it was a very emotional day. State and local dignitaries joined community members at the Sunset Memorial Garden in Lawton Sunday to pay tribute to local soldiers, both past and present. Many say this holiday is a way to remember those who fight and fall -- even during the times of unpopular wars.

There were actually two ceremonies for the veterans at the gardens -- one to honor those who changed our history books, and one for those who are defining our future by fighting in the middle east. Many of Lawton's veterans served in the Vietnam War -- and many of them remember when the nation didn't respect their sacrifice...

"I have a lot of mixed emotions, ok?" veteran Bill Anders said. "When I came back from Vietnam I was spit on. It's a little bit different now."

"When I returned we didn't have such honors," said veteran Isaac Shider. "We were called baby killers and all other things. But today we recognize our Iraqi Freedom soldiers and we are glad they serve our country today."

And that's why Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins was there -- to not only honor our current service members, but thank our nation's veterans herself. "To be able to have people come that were perhaps not welcomed as warmly in the 60s and 70s when they came back, to have those Vietnam era vets participating, it gives us the opportunity to say thank you when maybe we should have been said it decades ago," Askins said.

Many veterans are afraid the unpopularity of the Iraq War will lead to hatred toward the troops again. But in Lawton that isn't so. "The veterans, they fought for this country, and they deserve every right and benefit they have coming," Shider said.

Sunday they broke ground on a monument that will hold the name of soldiers who have fallen fighting in the Iraq War -- that way local family members will have a place to reach out and touch the memory of their soldier. "Many times those memorials come to those veterans of war, but it comes decades after that fight has occurred," Askins said. "So it is, I think, as important that the people of this area have recognized, to build a monument now is to allow those soldiers and other military who have served in the same conflict to be able to come and celebrate the lives of their fallen comrades."

They expect to have that monument completed in the Sunset Memorial Gardens by this summer.