Two events this week highlight the importance of recognizing those who have served in the United States' armed forces.
The first concerns living veterans, specifically those discharged since 1975. Burglars stole data containing names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and some disability rating information for up to 26.5 million veterans from the home of a Veterans Affairs data analyst who took the electronic data home, which is a violation of VA policies, according to a statement released Monday.
Although the FBI and the VA inspector general have taken the appropriate precautions by launching full-scale investigations, authorities think that the burglary was random and the thief has no knowledge of the data contents.
Affected veterans should still be on the guard.
"You need to keep an eye on anything suspicious with your records -- a close eye on credit cards and anything with financial security or Social Security numbers on it," said Bud Nelson, commander of Craig's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265.
Veterans concerned about veteran protection can go to www.firstgov.gov or call 1-800-333-4636 to get more information.
To celebrate the sacrifices veterans make for the U.S., events are planned for Memorial Day, which is Monday. Recognizing those who have died while serving our country is important to veterans like Jim Meineke, who served as a Marine Corps infantry rifleman during the Korean War.
"Whatever firefight you were in, anybody that serves, they might have been on the frontline or there's a lot of people supporting behind them, one is just as important as the other," Meineke said.
At 5 p.m. Sunday night, veterans and community members will gather at the Craig Cemetery to place United States flags on the graves of all known military personnel.
"Everybody helps put the flags out -- scout troops, the Bad Dog wrestling team, the girls soccer team will volunteer," Nelson said. "We have a master blueprint of the cemetery. There's about 500 of them, but as we update the chart, if family members check and see it's not there, make sure you please come and tell us."
The VFW and American Legion's joint Memorial Day service begins at 11 a.m. Monday at the cemetery.
"We welcome everyone to come and see what Memorial Day stands for," Meineke said. "There's usually 300 to 400 people there a year. It only lasts about an hour."
The service features the reading of the fallen veterans' names and a 21-gun M1 military rifle salute from the VFW color guard.
"It's a day to honor veterans -- people who gave their lives for our country, not just a longer weekend to get in an extra round of golf," Nelson said. "Take a moment of reflection to think about your freedoms. If you get a chance this weekend, thank a veteran. They're the ones who gave it to you."
The VFW color guard also will be marching in Saturday's Grand Olde West Days parade and conducting a similar Memorial Day service at 2 p.m. Monday at Maybell Cemetery.
Meeker's Memorial Day service takes place at 10 a.m. Monday at Highlands Cemetery.