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Veterans honored and thanked at the University of Utah

(Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – Bagpipes, cannons and marching bands are on hand at the University of Utah, as the school holds its annual Veteran’s Day commemoration.  Dignitaries attending the ceremony say people who have never served in the military just don’t understand what veterans have gone through.

On the stage inside the U of U Olpin Union Building, 11 servicemen were highlighted, representing every branch of the military serving in every war since World War Two.  Announcers narrated some the gruesome details of their service while medals were placed around their necks.

One of the veterans being honored was Army Staff Sergeant Terry Hoecherl.  He admits, he doesn’t like talking about the events that led to him being a prisoner of war for a brief time.  He was captured by the North Vietnamese Army and forced to save the lives of enemy wounded.  After he treated them, the NVA beat him with the butts of their rifles, breaking ribs and knocking out teeth.  Hoecherl was then tied to a tree.

Luckily for him, he was rescued the next morning, however, the treatment he received when he got home was also brutal.

“Nobody said, ‘Thank you for your service,’ anything.  They said, ‘You’re a baby killer, it’s an illegal war and how dare you fight in such a war?’ That was the welcome we received home,” he says.

Hoecherl received a Purple Heart, three Army Commendations for valor, and two Bronze Stars.  However, being recognized during today’s ceremony was just as meaningful for him.

“So, today, to be honored… it’s just a great honor.  It feels wonderful,” he adds.

Senator Mitt Romney was one of the invited guests to speak at the event.  He says this kind of ceremony is especially emotional for him, adding that veterans have always been the ones asked to stop those who would seek to oppress others.

Romney says, “The degree in which we need to remember but also to care for those that have served can’t be overstated.”

He believes that not only should veterans be thanked for their service, but, the country owes it to them to provide the benefits soldiers are promised.

“We’re talking about health care, mental health care, and, in cases where they’ve been injured in some serious way where they’re unable to care for themselves, we provide for them so they can go on with a life,” Romney says.