World War II veteran Tomas Alejandro Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Army at 19 years old.
The decision wasn’t really a choice, Alejandro, 94, said. It was a duty.
“Uncle Sam said ‘I want you,’” Alejandro said. “So I said, ‘I need to go.’”
League City residents and officials Saturday honored the military service of millions of Americans during a special Veterans Day ceremony attended by Alejandro and more than a dozen other current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The ceremony, at the Chester L. Davis Sportsplex on 1251 W. League City Parkway, recognized the 42 million Americans who, from 1775 to today, have served in the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Those veterans have truly made America what it is, the “land of the free and the home of the brave, Mayor pro tem Todd Kinsey said at the ceremony.
“Today, those words are as true as ever,” Kinsey said. “Time and again our service members bravely answered the call to defend freedom.”
Veterans Day’s roots go back to Nov. 11, 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson commemorated “Armistice Day” a year after the Allied Nations and Germany signed an armistice to end World War I.
The holiday remained Armistice Day through World War II and the Korean War. U.S. officials in 1954 renamed the day “Veterans Day,” which celebrates and recognizes those who’ve served.
Daniel Gibbs, who served with the U.S. Navy during the Bosnian conflict, said he was proud to stand alongside service members who have protected the rights of Americans.
“We realize that no matter what their race, their religion or their beliefs, they all deserve protection,” Gibbs said at the ceremony. “That is what has always made America great.”
Harold “Andy” Anderson, 93, was an Army medic in World War II, from 1943 to 1946, he said. Anderson recalled how different the medic field was back then, when he carried a bag on his hip full of sulfur packs.
“All they told us was how to stop the bleeding,” Anderson said.
People don’t recognize veterans enough for what they did for the country, Anderson said. Like Alejandro, Anderson said he served in the Army out of sense of personal responsibility to the country.
“My stories are like millions of others,” Anderson said. “We did what we were told.”
Harold Bradley, 93, also served in the Army in World War II. More veterans need to share their stories with young people so they can understand the freedom Americans enjoy every day, Bradley said.
“The fact is, people don’t realize what it meant for someone like me to serve in the Army at the age of 18 years old,” Bradley said. “At 19 years old, I was a tank commander.”
Garet Nenninger, 76, was in the Air Force for 21 years and served in the Vietnam War. Veterans Day is always a special day because it reminds American citizens that they have people defending them daily, Nenninger said.
“People in the military dedicate themselves to protecting America and protecting our freedom, but this is the one day that the whole country really recognizes that fact,” Nenninger said.
Bradley said he even has friends abroad who email him and thank them for the freedom he helped grant and preserve during World War II. Knowing that he and others have helped protect people in the United States and across the ocean has made Bradley proud, he said.
“People today can’t realize what that meant for us to preserve the freedom of those people,” Bradley said. “It’s an honor for people to gather here and give respect to the veterans who have served.”