Past, current service members honored at Veterans Day observance
November 15, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Nov. 15, 2012) -- Growing up post-World War I, Harold Rothstein's favorite national holiday was Armistice Day -- a time to commemorate the end of the "Great War."
He remembers sitting on a curb, watching the parade downtown. But most of all, he remembers the look on the faces of veterans and Soldiers marching past him.
"The most important thing to me was watching units come marching by, especially the veteran units," he said. "Each one of them had a color guard out in front. And the color guard was made up of men that have gone literally through hell and back.
"And I watched them as they marched, whether they were carrying a flag or carrying their Springfields, but all of them were braced and all of them had a look of pride."
The pride and brotherhood of veterans was the theme of Rothstein's speech during the installation's Veterans Day Ceremony on Nov. 8 at the Fort Meade Museum Plaza. The 45-minute ceremony featured Rep. Donna F. Edwards and Rothstein, father of Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein.
"When my people ask me why I picked my dad to speak, it's not because it was easy because it's not, to ask your father to speak on a day like today," the colonel said at the ceremony. "But truly to me, it is about what a veteran is. He was drafted. He used the G.I. Bill. He got his education and continued to serve our country in the public domain by being a public school teacher.
"What my dad represents is when he took that uniform off, he still maintained that pride in the uniform while wearing civilian clothes and being a veteran."
Observed Nov. 11 every year, Veterans Day started in 1926 as Armistice Day following World War I. After World War II and the Korean War, the observance was renamed Veterans Day to honor the veterans of the latter wars as well.
"What Veterans Day means to me is pretty simple," the garrison commander said. "One- to two percent of our nation have the opportunity to wear this uniform to defend 100 percent of our country. We give up our inalienable rights to allow others theirs, to protect freedom and promote democracy worldwide."
Edwards, congresswoman for Maryland's 4th District, grew up in a military family. Her father John Edwards served 30 years in the Air Force.
In her remarks, Edwards said she learned from her father the importance of honor, service, dedication and commitment to community and country.
"Although he retired his uniform, he never retired his service," she said. "I think that is true for so many who have worn the uniform of our armed services, that they continue to serve in every community, in every capacity."
As congresswoman for the 4th District, which now includes Fort Meade, Edwards said she is determined to help veterans and active-duty service members.
"It's a serious commitment to both honor our veterans on Veterans Day for your commitment and your service, but not forget that there is a day after Veterans Day," she said.
In his speech, Harold Rothstein spoke about his experiences on Armistice Day, interactions with veterans and his service in the Army.
"Being a veteran is something akin to having pride and a brotherhood amongst people," he said.
A veteran of the Korean War, the elder Rothstein was drafted in 1952 and served with Company H, 38th Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division as a forward observer. He was on the frontline in Korea as the ceasefire took effect in 1953.
He later served as a military policeman with Company A, 519th Military Police Battalion, Military Police Investigative Service.
Rothstein was honorably discharged and married in 1955. While completing his education, he and his wife, Marilyn, raised their four children. He used the G.I. Bill to earn his bachelor's and master's degrees from Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
He taught biology and marine biology in New Jersey high schools until 1991.
The elder Rothstein said one of his earliest encounters with veterans was when he initially attended college in 1947 when veterans returning from World War II were using the G.I. Bill to earn a degree.
He said there was something that made the group "different than everybody else."
"There was a bond that they had that wherever they went, whether it was a class on campus or going out for a beer, they bonded together," he said. "There was this companionship that they had, that nobody else could enter into their circle. They were very unique, and I thought to myself that maybe some day I would have that experience."
After graduating college in 1952, Rothstein went to the draft board and said he was ready to be drafted. Eventually, he was called to serve in the Korean War.
"It was something I never regretted doing," he said. "The opportunity to serve my country and the opportunity to wear the colors was something I didn't hesitate doing."
He then recalled a story about a letter from a Soldier to his mother about all the friends he had lost in battle.
"During this time, I think back to those who were killed in combat, those that died by accident, those that died because of some horrific disease. It doesn't really matter," he said. "They never had the chance to be a veteran."