Sedona honors U.S. veterans

Last year’s milestone marked the 75th anniver­sary of the end of World War II, the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War and the 30th anniversary of both the Panama invasion and the beginning of Desert Shield.

Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, marked the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated at the Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 11, 1921. The tomb serves as a sacred memorial site and is the grave of three unknown American service members from World War I, with two more laid to rest in 1958 and 1984.

During a Veterans Day tribute held at the Sedona Heritage Museum, federal representatives, local offi­cials, veterans and their families were present to honor those who served in the military.

In attendance were U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema [D-Ariz.], U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran [D-District 1], Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Donna Michaels, Sedona Mayor Sandy Moriarty, retired U.S. Army Band bugler Master Sgt. Bradley Moors, WWII veterans Herbert “Boots” Claunts, 102, and Fred Piper, 96; U.S. Marine Corps veteran Richard Kruse, vocalists Tom Jepperson and Jeanie Carroll and host Shondra Jepperson.

After a brief introduction by veteran Michele Zahner, the National Anthem echoed throughout the fruit-packing shed, where approximately 200 people gathered for this event.

Claunts, who served in Burma with the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1946, is the oldest Sedona resident to have served in the military. He, along with fellow U.S. Army Air Forces veteran Piper, were honored for their service.

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Piper stood and spoke to the audience about Sedona’s three Gold Star Mothers. He explained that a flag was hung in almost every house in Sedona, recognizing that a person in that household was in the service.

“When a mother lost a son in the service, they got a gold star, and when that hung on the door, people knew that a person who lived in that household was deceased,” Piper said.

Sinema acknowledged Claunts and Piper in her speech, thanking them for the service they have given to the country as well as the Gold Star families.

“My grandfather, who is passed, also had served in WWII,” she said. “As a child and learning the sacri­fices that he made saving his brothers in the war, earning a Purple Heart by sacrificing his own safety to save those in his troop and unit, has guided me throughout my life.”

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema [D-Ariz.] spoke at the Veterans Day tribute held at the Sedona Heritage Museum on Nov. 11. David Jolkovski/Larson Newspapers

“There are too many Americans today who can’t even imagine or know the struggle that our grandmas and grandpas, our moms and dads, the sacrifices that they made to defend our very basic freedoms and basic human rights against the greatest tyrannical threat in our world’s history,” Sinema said. “So thank you again, to all of you and all veterans and their families who served, who fought and who made the ultimate sacrifice to our country.”

Sinema also mentioned Sgt. Daniel Somers, whom she acknowledged in her first speech in the U.S. Senate.

“Somers was an Arizona Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq,” she said. “Like many veterans, he suffered post traumatic stress disorder that was made worse by a brain injury. Despite repeated requests, the VA failed to provide him with the suit­able support and care he needed. In 2013, we lost Sgt. Somers to suicide. Americans returning home from serving our nation must always have somewhere to turn for support.”

Sinema worked with his parents, Howard and Jean Somers, to pass the Daniel Somers Access to Care Act, which ensures veterans receive behavioral health services.

Last year, Sinema introduced and passed the Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act in the annual defense authorization bill requiring the U.S. Department of Defense to create support networks for those entering the military. Sinema is working with the Somerses to expand the network as soldiers transition out of the military.

“My father served in Korea,” Michaels said. “He was in the Navy and came back with a traumatic brain injury, and he was not the same ever — our family didn’t survive as a unit as a result of that.”

Michaels read a post about the 19.6 million men and women in the military and read about the differences between Memorial Day and Veterans Day — how the two holidays couldn’t be more different.

O’Halleran spoke about honoring veterans as well as sharing his own family’s experiences.

“Five people in my family [four uncles and an aunt] never mentioned a word, never had a picture on the wall, never identified with family what they have gone through,” he said. “That should tell you that maybe they wanted to forget and didn’t want to share because of how terrible it was. Every day we should honor our veterans — every single day of the year — we should never forget.”

O’Halleran spoke of a picture on the wall in his Washington, D.C., office.

“There is a framed picture on the wall with framed metals for my one uncle,” O’Halleran said. “He was 96 when he died. He was a B-25 bombardier and never mentioned a word about it. When he died, we were going through his belongings and we found medal after medal after medal. He had served in a way of distinction that anyone who has been in battle or service should be looked upon, with distinction for serving our country.” O’Halleran said he was in shock when he found out about his uncle’s history.

“Now I have his picture in there [his office] to remind me every day that the veterans need more help,” he said.

U.S. Army Band bugler Master Sgt. Bradley Moors and Sedona Mayor Sandy Moriarty place a wreath to honor veterans. Moors later spoke about the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery. David Jolkovski/Larson Newspapers

Moriarty honored the 100th anniversary of the Unknown Soldier by placing a commemorative wreath during the service.

“It’s always an honor and a privilege to speak to you this day to honor our veterans and their families,” she said. “There are truly not enough words that anyone can say to express our gratitude to our veterans for their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe and free.”

Moors, from Prescott, is a retired 23-year master sergeant from the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” where he served in Washington, D.C., as a bugler at the Tomb of the Unknowns and Arlington. Moors spoke of his experiences and duty at the tomb: “The ceremonies never stop — snow, rain, extreme temperatures — it doesn’t matter.”

He mentioned that performing the honor can be a nerve-wracking experience.

“There is no room for error. One bad note can make you famous,” he said. “Perfect example, Sgt. Keith Clark was the bugler during President John F. Kennedy’s funeral. During his [Clark’s] performance he misplayed the sixth note — the note that was heard around the world,” Moors said.

Kruse, a Vietnam veteran and a life member of the Cottonwood VFW, American Legion and Marine Corps League, recited the poem of the Unknown Soldier, the last line which reads, “I am the Unknown Soldier and maybe I died in vain / but if I were alive and my country called / I would do it all over again.”

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Arizona News (Sedona)

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