SALT LAKE CITY — Summarizing the significance Veterans Day has to veterans might be a complicated task — something Jim Stritikus describes as a good thing.
"We think about those we have with us and those who didn't come back," said the former Cobra attack helicopter pilot, who served two tours in Vietnam. "When you have the chance to be with other veterans, you know you have a brotherhood that never goes away."
Stritikus offered his reflections in the entryway to the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, the day before the official Veterans Day. Inside, veterans on foot and in wheelchairs crowded the hallway as Purple Heart recipient Gordon L Ewell signed the book he wrote about his experience in Iraq.
Across the hall, an Elvis impersonator got ready to entertain. Elvis, after all, was an Army veteran.
Outside, a color guard gathered for a flag raising on a new monument donated by Jeff Sagers, one of the hospital's strident, long-term volunteers. Volunteers handed out gift bags they had assembled to all veterans who came and went.
Activities elsewhere surrounding Veterans Day show the federal holiday, in a country at war for 10 years, is about more than remembering the past.
Salt Lake County hosted its 13th annual Veterans Day celebration, recognizing the more than 450 county employees and family members who have served in the military. "While we honor them, they honor us with a strong right arm against the many threats against our great nation," said Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.
Salt Lake Community College announced it has been named one of the top 10 two-year colleges for veterans by Military Times EDGE magazine. At the University of Utah, Veterans Day events included the presentation of a first-ever Student Veteran of the Year medallion and cash stipend, presented to business student James Cunningham, a veteran of the war in Iraq.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Wednesday announced a new Military to Civilian Crosswalk for Accelerated Employment Opportunities Project aimed at making it easier for veterans to find jobs.
• Herbert will recognize Utah's 11 surviving World War II Japanese-American veterans from the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat and Military Intelligence Service. The event is scheduled in the Capitol's Gold Room at 10:30 a.m. The surviving members of the battalion recently received the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in Washington.
• At 11 a.m., the governor will present the first-ever Utah Distinguished Service Veterans Awards during an 11 a.m. ceremony in the Capitol rotunda. Recipients are World War II Army veteran Bill Christofferson, Vietnam Air Force veteran Norman "Norm" Nelson, Korean War Air Force veteran Robert "Bob" Ramos, World War II Army veteran and Japanese internment camp detainee Casey Kunimura, and Keith Davis, a long-time veterans advocate.
• The VA Medical Center will have a telethon on Friday to inform veterans about programs and benefits available through the VA. Anyone with questions about benefits is invited to call 877-908-0680 between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
• Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, will be the keynote speaker at a Veterans Day ceremony at American Legion Post 134, 345 Depot Street in Clearfield, where names will be added to Utah's "Wall of Honor."
• The Leonardo science, technology and creativity museum is offering free admission for active duty, reserve and retired military personnel from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• The Utah National Guard will host its 56th annual Veterans Day Concert, titled "Honoring a Decade of Sacrifice," at 7 p.m. at the U.'s Jon M. Huntsman Center. The free event will include performances by the Guard's 23rd Army Band and a 500-voice combined high school choir from the Granite School District. Bart Davis, state chairman of The Employer Support of Guard and Reserve, will be presented a Veterans Service Award.
• Brigham Young University will host a patriotic program by the BYU football team called "Salute to Servicemen, Women and Veterans." The program is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse and will feature patriotic songs as well as addresses by Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall and Chad Lewis, who will speak on his "Wounded Warriors" experiences.
• Thirteen members of the Utah National Guard's 118th Sapper Company will be recognized at BYU during its home football game against the University of Idaho at 7 p.m. for the Purple Heart medals they received during combat action in Afghanistan. There will also be a tribute to each service branch during halftime.