NORMAN — Veterans Day activities ended Sunday evening after a memorial service at the Cleveland County Veterans Memorial in Reaves Park.
Veterans of every war were honored at the service as well as troops from the 45th Infantry Brigade, Task Force Thunderbird, who had returned from deployment in Afghanistan last year. Fallen soldiers from the brigade and their families also were recognized.
Mayor Cindy Rosenthal presented a plaque to Col. Joel P. Ward and Sgt. Maj. Robert Maxwell, commanding officers over the 45th Infantry Brigade, as a token of appreciation for the brigade’s service keeping the city of Norman, as well as the nation, safe.
Solders in the brigade who were deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan numbered 2,800. Eleven of those were killed in action, three died later from wounds, 289 battle injuries were suffered and 180 purple hearts were awarded.
Brig. Gen. James Richardson spoke during the memorial service about the improvements the brigade made while they were overseas. Working with the Afghanistan National Army and the Afghan National Police, the brigade helped Afghanistan’s security forces take the lead to defend their nation he said.
“Shops have reopened, the roads are clear of IEDs, children are back in school, the price of land has doubled in Laghman Province and the district government is operating without fear of reprisal,” Richardson said.
He said the thing that makes the memorial at Reaves Park special is not how beautifully it’s crafted but rather the fact that the walls keep a vigil. All of the men and women who have entered the military since 1973 did so by their own volition and they all share the same two principles, he said.
“An abiding love of their country and the full awareness that they might be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Richardson said. “This memorial behind me enshrines the memory of those who nobly served, and we are here to recognize the sacrifices that they have made in fulfilling their duty.”
Rosenthal said three years ago, they honored Vietnam veterans with a memorial service, but Sunday marked the second annual Veterans Day parade with a memorial service to follow.