Maj. Gen. Ricky Adams stood Friday underneath a red and yellow image of a thunderbird on a red background, long the symbol for Oklahoma's 45th Infantry Division, and talked about sacrifice.
Speaking to dozens of veterans and their families who had gathered for a Veterans Day ceremony outside the 45th Infantry Division Museum, Adams wasn't only referring to the history chronicled inside the museum's walls.
More than 3,000 men and women are wearing the thunderbird patch in Afghanistan as they serve a deployment with the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The group has lost 14 soldiers since they deployed in June.
That stark reality was on the minds of previous generations of veterans as they gathered at the museum Friday.
“I cut out every article for every soldier lost from the 45th,” said Carter Glass, 84, of Oklahoma City. “I think about them every day.”
Glass, who served in Korea and Vietnam, wasn't alone.
William Hill, 79, of Edmond, served with the 45th in Korea. He said the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the museum is a chance to see old friends, but the knowledge that a new group of men and women are putting their lives on the line with his old unit is a reminder of what has always been at stake when young men and women go to war.
“It makes you realize the commitment they have,” Hill said. “That's why we're here today.”
Adams, a longtime member of Oklahoma's National Guard, is now the deputy commanding general of the Army National Guard's Army Training and Doctrine Command. In his keynote speech, he said that although the battlefield has changed, the price paid by those who serve has not.
Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I. But as it evolved into the holiday we know today, it came to mean more than the ending of any single war.
“This day is not established for us to celebrate our victories,” Adams said. “This day was established for us to celebrate the people who made those victories possible.”
The ceremony included the laying of a wreath at the base of the museum's flagpole as the 145th Army Band played taps. The band played other patriotic songs as numerous color guards marched and as veterans of various wars and military branches stood to be recognized.
Adams said such remembrances and celebrations are important, but we owe our veterans more.
“There are no tributes, there is no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and sacrifice,” Adams said. “We are all the benefactors of your collective sacrifices.”