Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Bill Raines noted Friday that an amazing thing happens each day in the United States -- people wake up free.
Speaking to an audience of more than 300 at Chattanooga National Cemetery, Raines said the belief in and protection of freedom connected the sacrifices of veterans both past and present, with all Americans.
"You're a rock's throw away from people who gave it all to have freedom and to keep our country united," Raines said.
Those gathered at the cemetery and at events throughout the region honored veterans, living and dead, with ceremonies, luncheons, parades and concerts this week connected to Friday's Veterans Day observance.
Larry Hester, service officer for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3679 in Chickamauga, Ga., said Veterans Day and related events are a good way to remind veterans of the benefits they've earned.
"Anybody and everybody that comes to me and needs information about the [Veterans Administration], if I don't know the answer, I can get it," Hester said.
Many veterans and their families don't know they're entitled to burial services, health care assistance and other services, Hester said.
Military Order of the Purple Heart Tennessee Chapter Cmdr. Bill Medley said that, with the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the public's recognition of veterans' concerns has improved.
Medley, a Vietnam War veteran, said regular news of the wars brings the military to the minds of the public more than in previous times.
"[Veterans Day] is ideal because it brings the plight of veterans to the forefront," he said.
Raines said he hoped that those who thank and honor veterans on the holiday will be inspired to rededicate themselves to the preservation of freedom.
"It's our job to make sure that not only we wake up free, but our children and our children's children wake up free, as well," Raines said.