Veterans Day: Honoring our servicemen and women

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PHOENIX-- Arizona's Tristan Topps, who won the Ms. United States Pageant last July, spent time with me at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix Tuesday.

We spent time visiting with veterans and thanking them for their years of service and sacrifice.

Topps will serve as the Celebrity Grand Marshall of the 2010 VA Veterans Day Parade in Phoenix Thursday.

Standing at just under 6 feet tall (without shoes on), Topps graduated cum laude from Hampton University in May 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast journalism.

Topps is a Chandler resident and volunteers for Operation Homefront Arizona, which provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors.

I am all set to emcee the 2010 VA Veterans Day Parade in Phoenix Thursday.

My father served time in the military as a Navy Seabee, doing two tours in Vietnam. Two of my father's younger brothers spent time in the service with the Army, also doing tours in Vietnam.

During WWII my paternal grandfather spent time off the coast of North Africa on the USS Earl. My maternal grandfather is an Army vet and my great-uncle was in the Air Force, shot down in combat while fighting for our country in WWII. His body was never recovered.

I have the utmost respect for the men and women who volunteer to fight for the freedom we get to enjoy daily here in the United States. Their families are brave and selfless. For this, I am and will forever be grateful.

My own family's personal experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has touched me deeply. It's going to be a lifelong mission to learn more about the men and women who are working to heal from these wounds. That's where my heart is.

The VA Veterans Day Parade here in Phoenix began in 1997 with 50 entries and approximately 10,000 people on the streets.

Now, there are around 100 entries and more than 200,000 spectators who line the streets to watch.

The parade is designed to help commemorate and honor our veterans, and to educate Americans about the wonderful service our veterans have given to protect our freedoms.

The parade will stream live here on our website,