For the second time in my life, I locked my keys in my car Tuesday.

The Harker Heights City Council meeting ended at 6 p.m., and the city’s veterans ceremony was to follow at 6:30 p.m. The parking lot was already filled.

I got inside my car to tell an editor my council story would have to wait because I didn’t have enough time to drive around town to find WiFi and wait for my laptop to start up.

I reviewed notes between events, grabbed my recorder, phone, pen and notepad and was ready for the ceremony.

As soon as my door closed, I knew. My keys were in the console. I do have a spare set of keys. However, those were locked inside my apartment back in Killeen, with the apartment keys also in the car.

I inquired about locksmiths, then put the incident out of my mind, as my focus was veterans.

I later told my friend — a veteran of the recent wars in the Middle East himself — I was not going to be the person who messed up a story about veterans or blow it off because of personal woes.

Sure, locking keys in a car was an unfortunate $50 mistake, but it’d be far more unfortunate if I didn’t give the ceremony the time I thought it or the veterans in attendance deserved.

I made sure to find veterans in attendance to get their stories. Listening to veterans and having them share whatever they want to is something I don’t take for granted.

At the ceremony, I was glad to hear Mayor Rob Robinson and guest speaker Maj. Gen. John Uberti, deputy commander of III Corps, state the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

I think most in this area would know the difference, but it’s nice to remind us and educate younger ones.

Veterans Day’s origins are traced to the 11th hour, 11th day and 11th month in 1918 with the armistice ending the fighting of World War I, both Robinson and Uberti said.

In 1954, President Eisenhower expanded Armistice Day to declare it as Veterans Day, Uberti said.

Memorial Day began after the Civil War, as friends and relatives placed flower on graves of the war’s dead, Robinson said.

“Veterans Day includes those living and those who have passed on,” Robinson said.

Decades later, the day reminds those of the debt owed to the brave and valiant men and women of armed services, Uberti said.

“We recognize that the veterans of all our nation’s of wars — from the War of Independence to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan all shared the same blood and the same sacrifice — whether they fought in the mountains of Afghanistan or on the scopes of Bunker Hill, they share a bond that is sacred and remembered,” he said.

It is because of those sacrifices that I will always give a veteran the time he or she deserves.

Last year, former Herald military editor Rose Thayer wrote about representatives with the future National Mounted Warfare Foundation’s “Stepping into the Story” video project to capture veterans’ stories.

While in junior college, I had a history instructor who partnered with the U.S. Library of Congress for a similar project to record veteran stories.

On Veterans Day, the adage “if you enjoy your freedom, thank a veteran,” is commonly stated.

In addition to saying thanks, I think family members or friends of a veteran can show that thanks. You may have heard it hundreds of times, or never before, but find out when they got into the military. Find out why. Listen to stories and memories they’re willing to share without forcing them to share anything they don’t want to. Jot down dates and locations. Listening to those stories is one way to show thanks and interest before memories are forgotten. It’s a key to preserving history.

Contact Rachael Riley at or 254-501-7553

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