This year, Veterans Day might carry more meaning than usual for a former World War II soldier who finally got a standing ovation for a symphony he wrote 67 years ago.
Now a retired colonel in the Army Reserve, Harold Van Heuvelen, 93, first enlisted in the Army following Pearl Harbor, Raw Story reported. When peace came in Europe in April 1945, his post as an instructor for recruits didn't require much of his time, so he utilized it in other ways.
"We just practically sat there without anything to do," Heuvelen told NPR. "So I decided to write a symphony."
For nearly 70 years, the score of that symphony, called "Opus 7," lay dormant. In the early 2000s, however, his son Bob found it –- and eventually got it on stage.
Bob Van Heuvelen sent a digital copy to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who petitioned the Army to have it played. According to Roll Call, Van Heuvelen had studied under the notorious composer Leonard Bernstein at the Tanglewood music academy in Lennox, Mass.
He structured his masterpiece to mirror the experience of World War II -- from sadness to celebration.
"The opening bars of the first movement portray the depth of sadness experienced in those years prior to World War II," Heuvelen told NPR.
The second movement depicts the frenzy of preparing for combat, leading listeners into a raucous third movement, where the fighting occurs. Then the climax hits.
When the symphony premiered this week at the U.S. Army Orchestra’s Veterans Day concert, Van Heuvelen's wife Alma, son Bob along with dozens of other family members, flanked the composer as he listened to his masterpiece.
Maj. Tod Addison, the conductor, paused between the third and final movements and said: “We certainly hope you’re pleased, Mr. Van Heuvelen.”
At the end, he got a standing ovation and was led to the front, from where he addressed the crowd while leaning on his cane.
"Thank you for coming, and God bless you. And I hope that God will bless you as much as he's blessed me," he said to them.