Camp Nelson — Beneath a cold, pelting rain, some 200 people attended the Veterans Day ceremony Tuesday to pay tribute to those who gave "the last full measure of devotion" that President Lincoln spoke about in his Gettysburg Address.
The somber program featured two prayers, two cannon firings, a rifle salute and the patter of raindrops on numerous umbrellas.
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Nicholasville Police Chief Barry Waldrop, whose father was killed in 1969 while serving a third tour in Vietnam, spoke of the importance of remembrance.
"The big sales at the shopping malls have nothing to do with this holiday's significance," he said. When Waldrop was 15, his father, Kyle, left for Vietnam.
"Before he left, he told me to take care of my mother. That was the last conversation that I had with my father," Waldrop said.
"When we were informed of my father's death, I worked hard to keep my promise," he said. But Waldrop did not consider himself "a war orphan" because "I belonged to one of the most honorable and prestigious groups of people in the United States. I was one of the hundreds of thousands whose loved ones paid the ultimate price for freedom."
Wars have come and gone, but Americans continue to support "strong, effective programs for all our veterans," he said.
"They are particularly concerned about those who come home from war disabled in body, mind and spirit," Waldrop said. "Our nation's citizens want their veterans to get proper medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Americans see this issue as a high national priority. It ranks right up there with our damaged economy, high gas prices and the mortgage crisis. Our politicians need to pay attention to this."
Waldrop, who has been Nicholasville's police chief since 1996, said he found it refreshing to hear the presidential candidates discussing the importance of veterans' issues.
"Now that the election is over, the most important thing to remember is this: If America is going to send its people off to war, it has to be prepared to deal with the consequences of war."
Several people in the audience nodded when Waldrop said it will take a bipartisan effort to ensure the care of veterans.
"Let's face it, the defense of America is bipartisan," he said. "Believe me, no one at the recruiting station asks if you are a Democrat or a Republican. They ask you to raise your right hand" when taking the oath of enlistment.
Among those attending Tuesday's ceremony was Pam ela Garner of Paint Lick in Garrard County. Her husband, James Michael Garner, a 22-year Army veteran who served in the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War, died of a brain tumor in March and is buried at Camp Nelson. He was 50.
The couple moved to Kentucky in 1999, and he worked at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County. His tombstone reads "greatly missed, beloved husband, father and grandfather."
"I was very, very proud of him," Pamela Garner said. "He took good care of his troops, and he loved the military. He really did."
Some 14,000 veterans and their spouses are buried at Camp Nelson National Cemetery south of Nicholasville. Congress created the cemetery in 1866 and named it for Maj. Gen. William "Bull" Nelson, a Union officer in the Civil War.