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Veterans Day at Idaho Capitol: Leaders honor ‘defenders of our country’ for their service

Idaho

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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — During any other year, hundreds of people would gather near the Idaho Statehouse to celebrate Veterans Day.

Far fewer people gathered on the Capitol’s steps for the 2020 holiday Wednesday, but the emphasis was still on honoring those who have served, as a number of Idaho’s military and government leaders gathered for the holiday.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little lamented the loss of a parade this year because of the coronavirus pandemic but said veterans always deserve recognition and support, regardless of the circumstance or day.

“Our veterans are not just defenders of our country, they are contributors to our economy, and our community,” Little said.

The event Wednesday at the Statehouse, hosted by the American Red Cross, featured several speakers, some of whom told personal stories about connections to veterans.

Roy Eiguren, co-chair of the American Red Cross of Greater Idaho, said it was a day to remember his father, who served under Gen. George Patton in World War II. Eiguren’s father was severely wounded by shrapnel from a German shell during the Battle of the Bulge, but survived in large part because of blood transfusions.

The Red Cross would later help save Eiguren’s father once more, as an aortic aneurysm nearly claimed his life. In need of a blood transfusion with a rare antigen, the Red Cross flew a collection of the needed blood to Boise, which allowed a needed surgery to occur.

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Boise Mayor Lauren McLean speaks during a Veterans Day event Wednesday as U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (no mask), Vicki Risch, Gov. Brad Little (far right) and others look on. | Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman

Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho and the commanding general of the Idaho National Guard, thanked the Red Cross for all it does while also honoring Idahoans for their military service.

“Throughout all of my deployments, both in the Middle East and in Bosnia, the Red Cross was always there supporting our men and women of the military, providing care packages, life support and connecting soldiers with their families,” Garshak said.

He said that his five-gallon blood donor pin means as much to him as the other badges and ribbons on his uniform because it symbolizes the same thing: the giving of yourself to serve something greater than yourself.

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean shared that her grandfather landed on the beaches of Normandy about a month after D-Day during World War II. In high school, McLean was an exchange student living in Normandy, where she learned that her exchange family’s grandfather lived in a French village freed by American soldiers.

“It wasn’t until hearing his story about the impact that seeing Americans had on his life, his region of the country, that I truly understood what so many people had done, not only for us but for the world,” McLean said.

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, fresh off re-election, called the matter of honoring veterans a nonpartisan issue and said all Americans owe a debt to those who served. Risch said the hardest part of his job while he was the state’s governor was attending Idahoans’ military funerals.

“Without your sacrifices, Americans would not enjoy the constitutional freedoms that distinguish us, clearly us, from the rest of the world,” Risch said while paying tribute.

Though Veterans Day events have been canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, Little said there is reason to look forward to future Nov. 11 events.

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