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A day to honor veterans

Tears, thanks at Fort Logan where hundreds gather

Published November 12, 2008 at 12:05 a.m.

Lance Cpl. Joshua Burke stood on the browning grass at Fort Logan National Cemetery on Tuesday, listening to Taps while thinking of friends killed in Iraq.

"I wasn't able to attend any of their funerals on account of the fact I was in Iraq," he said. "This is kind of like a way to attend all of their funerals."

When asked how many funerals he missed, he winced.

"I lost track," he said. "Too many to count."

Tuesday was Veterans Day, the holiday when the nation honors those who have worn a military uniform. Burke, a 22-year-old Marine, is getting medically discharged at the end of the month and said he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He served two tours in Iraq and said he was glad to see a few hundred turn out to honor veterans.

But he said the Iraq war has been pushed to the back-burner as Americans fixate on economic woes and their own financial anxiety.

Now that he's returned, the Colorado native has also run into the economic crunch. He'd like to be an EMT, but there aren't many jobs available. Burke said he was interviewing for an hourly job at Sam's Club Tuesday afternoon.

"I hope I get it," he said.

After the ceremony, Burke, dressed in fatigues, said he was touched by the speech given by Air Force Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, the state's adjutant general.

Edwards said he wanted everyone to focus on the oath taken by the enlisted men and women of all the service branches. He said the oath requires them to defend and uphold the Constitution.

Edwards also said he happened to be abroad when Barack Obama was elected president and that it was a great vantage point to witness the democracy defended by veterans throughout the nation's history.

"It was the fact that the United States of America goes through a process where we elect our leader every four years, and we do that without interference from the military," he said.

There wasn't much in the way of politics as the crowd of a few hundred sat in chairs facing a lake. There were some tears when Pete Hyland sang God Bless America and later when buglers played Echo Taps.

But more emotion came after the ceremony and the crowds had dispersed.

Across the cemetery and down rows and rows of white headstones, a Greeley family stood in a semicircle around the white marker of Cpl. Jimmy Ramos.

Ramos, a Vietnam veteran, died five years ago. As 4-year-old Lelia Holland, his great niece, hugged the stone, hung on the stone and leaned on the stone, Flevia Ramos recalled how her son had to get her husband's signature, so he could enlist at the age of 17.

And Jimmy Ramos' sister, Bea Ramos, remembered how she took care of him in the last six years of his life as he was stricken blind due to diabetes and suffered from complications due to Agent Orange.

Bea Ramos said they come to Fort Logan several times a year to visit but said the biggest reminder of her brother is the cat he left behind.

"I remember when he died, the cat just sat at the top of the stairs and never moved," she said. "It was like the cat knew. So I've taken care of Cinnamon ever since."

She smiled.

"And I don't even like cats," Ramos said. "But my brother - well, he loved that cat."

Senator's priorities

Sen. Ken Salazar spoke of some priorities for veterans he says he wanted to focus on in his Veterans Day address at Fort Logan National Cemetery. They include:

* Complete a veterans hospital at the Fitzsimons site in Aurora. "A promise long overdue," he said.

* Expand the cemetery at Fort Logan.

* Funding for veterans returning from conflict suffering from injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. "We still have a lot of work to do," he said.

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