Steamboat Springs The men who filled the backroom of the local VFW post Saturday evening stood apart from one another and yet they stood together.
They fought in different wars but they fought for the same flag.
They represented different branches of the military but they were soldiers just the same.
The veterans who attended the annual Veterans Day dinner and Marine Corps Birthday Party came not to reminisce about glory gone by or swap war stories but to celebrate each other's commitment to the preservation of freedom.
"That so many all showed up is a great testament to the military influence that we have around here but so many know so little of," Veteran Affairs officer Michael Condie said.
Condie, a former Marine, oversaw the ceremony to recognize the Marine Corps' 226th birthday.
The annual celebration involves cutting a cake and serving a piece to the guests of honor, the oldest Marine and the youngest Marine.
Condie and several others donned their uniforms for the event but many veterans left their uniform at home.
Regardless of dress, they all wore their pride, World War II veteran Bob DeVries said.
DeVries, who served in the Pacific Theater from December 1943 to June 1946, said he came to show his gratitude for fellow solders who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Kuwait.
"We're all the same," he said. "It doesn't matter when we fought."
He said he welcomed the recent appreciation for veterans in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and was hopeful that such appreciation for their sacrifice would not be short-lived.
"It seems that the public has once again realized the importance of these men who give up a lot to serve their country," DeVries said.
As more men who served in earlier conflicts pass away, it is important that their service not be forgotten, he added.
One by one, the men he served with have faded from the scene, and all too often, he said, from people's memories.
"There's not that many of us left," DeVries said. "But they must be remembered."
Doc Daughenbaugh, a Marine who served during the Vietnam War, said he was deeply affected by the sight of so many veterans in one room.
"I really appreciate the fellowship," he said. "It's encouraging to see so many other men here who have served their country."
Daughenbaugh said he could think of nothing more appropriate than a day to honor the men who have given so much to ensure a free nation.
"Especially now, it's just so meaningful to me," he said. "There's a great sense among Americans of why a day like this is so important."
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