Storify: Veterans Day: Salute to those who served their country
RIVERSIDE - When Cecil Davis was captured by German soldiers after being shot out of a B-17 aircraft over Germany during World War II, the love for his country and family kept him alive.
Davis, a San Jacinto resident and former prisoner of war, shared his story Sunday during a Veterans Day ceremony at Riverside National Cemetery.
"What my (captives) failed to realize was although they shaved my head, starved my body, deprived my soul and denied me basic human rights - an American flag fluttered on in my heart," he said.
"The pride of what the red, white and blue stand for buoyed my spirit. God watched over me and my family sustained me and I survived."
Davis was held in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany where he worked as a prison laborer. It was one of the first Nazi concentration camps.
"I remember going to Dachau, we couldn't figure out was going on," Davis said. "We thought we were going into a hog farm it smelled so bad."
Davis urged loved ones of veterans and veterans themselves to seek help with post-traumatic stress, such as outbursts of impatience and rage, which he experienced.
"That's what basically what I went through, my fellow POWs went through. Some of them will not, cannot talk of their experiences, and its very hard on them," he said. "I continue to talk about my experience. I got it out of my system about these things."
Sunday's program began at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 keeping with a tradition following the signing of an armistice that ended the conflict in World War I at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month of the year.
The Riverside Concert Band performed patriotic songs as well as those of each military branch.
Several veterans in the audience were also recognized during the ceremony.
Current and vintage military aircraft flew over the ceremony, receiving many cheers from the audience.
The Order of Daedalians, Thirteenth Flight observed its annual Veterans Day service at the cemetery's flag pole plaza.
"In countless ceremonies like this across this country this weekend, America will pause to honor our veterans," said Dean Moline, director of Riverside National Cemetery. "By doing so, we renew the commitment America has made to those who have served."
Moline said looking at the headlines today, it is evident America's way of life is a beacon of hope and freedom to others.
"Those same headlines, however, remind us that our way of life is constantly under attack," he said. "It has always been the people we now call veterans who have stood as democracy's insurance policy."
Veterans Day is also the anniversary of Riverside National Cemetery, which opened in 1978 with a dedication ceremony and the re-interment of Ysmael Villegas, a Riverside native and Medal of Honor recipient.
Since then, nearly 215,000 veterans and their family members have been interred at the cemetery.
Nearly 500 volunteers from veteran service organizations, former miliary members and high school Reserve Officer Training Corps programs comprise the Riverside National Cemetery Memorial Honor Detail, which provides military honors for veteran committal services and special events at the cemetery.