Fore those who served: ‘Veterans Day is a triumph of all those who served and kept us free’
By ADRIENNE WALLACE, Editor
Nov 17, 2017, 12:27
Richard L. Haden, Bugler, A.P. Hill Camp 167, S.C.V., plays Taps at Friday’s Veterans’ Day ceremony in Prince George.
The day may have brought frigid temperatures, but it was nothing compared to what many have endured – soaking wet carrying 50 pounds of gear, fighting against the enemy in conditions causing hypothermia and trench foot, 30 degrees below freezing and even colder training environments, and sleeping on the cold ground in areas they dug out for a bed. Those who have lived in such conditions were honored on Saturday during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Prince George Heritage Center.
While many of those in attendance had made such sacrifices serving their country at one time or another, others were there to pay tribute to all who have and continue to serve the country in the armed forces.
Supervisor Chairman William Robertson, Jr. addressed the crowd gathered inside the old courthouse because of the cold temperatures. “A veteran is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being – a person who offered some of their life’s most vital years in the service of their country, and who sacrificed their ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs,” quoted Robertson from a 1995 Times-Dispatch editorial.
“On this Veterans Day, I want to also honor those who are presently serving in this great country’s armed forces,” Robertson, a proud Marine veteran, stated. “They are just as much a veteran as I am.”
The 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month marked the end of World War 1 in 1918, and what once was known as Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day.
National Park Service Ranger Aaron Rowland gave the history of the significance of how Veterans Day became as he shared facts about World War I which has reached a 100 anniversary milestone.
“After the First World War ended on November 11th, 1918, Winston Churchill said about the war that “All the horrors of all the ages were brought together; not only armies but whole populations were thrust into the midst of them,” Rowland, an Iraq combat veteran shared. “It was at this very moment, one hundred years ago today, the soldiers of then Camp Lee were ensconced in their training regimen, and daily activities such as drill, classroom instruction, and rifle ranges filled their time.”
The fall of 1917 saw patriotic recruits arriving by the hundreds to Camp Lee to begin their basic soldierly training and the abrupt transition from civilian to military life.
That year, our economy was mobilized to meet the needs of the war effort, and millions of men and women volunteered for service; many of whom came from, and trained here, in Prince George.
The soldiers trained for a far-off, distant war that didn’t seem real to many of them.
Machine guns and airplanes dominated the battlefield, and when the opposition couldn’t reach the enemy in their trenches, they resorted to chemical warfare, gasses which sank down in to the trench bays forcing their evacuation.
Military service in the United States was not a glamorous profession, and our non-intervention practices prohibited us from having a large standing army.
Within just a few months of our declaration of war on the Central Powers and Kaiser Wilhelm, the U.S. military had boots on the ground in France.
Soldiers such as Wade Temple, who served as a Bank Clerk, and Edgar Young, a physician, left their jobs in Prince George and joined the ranks of the National Army in 1917.
That war ended on the 11th hour … of the 11th day … of the 11th month 1918, ninety-nine years ago, today.
When American service-members returned home, we ceased to be hyphenated Americans in this great melting pot, and, in their correspondence, Americans referred to it as “the United States IS” rather than “the United States ARE. ”
“We gather here today to commemorate the selfless service of these great Americans, and all Americans who have served over the past 242 years,” said Rowland.
After Rowland gave history of World War I and the service of those from Camp Lee, Guest Speaker Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Drushal reflected on those who have given so much in the quest for freedom.
“Veterans Day is a triumph of all those who served and kept us free and continue to do so today,” the U.S. Army chief of transportation and commandant school of transportation, noted.
“Veterans are part of a uniquely American collective. Whenever America or her interests have been threatened, men and women from across this great nation have risen in her defense,” he said.
The combat veterans who have served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, explained that veterans and their families have sacrificed to serve “that sacred pact between warrior and society that all of us hold so dear.”
Many of those have served at Fort Lee and local residents have also deployed in support of operations.
“Prince George is no stranger to military operations or veterans,” Drushal said. “The county has been involved in the Revolutionary War and was vital during he Civil War. We are familiar with the Battle of the Crater and City Point and in 1917, 100 years ago during WWI, Camp Lee was established.”
Robertson said the county is a locality that supports its veterans and is made up of those who have serve calling Fort Lee, Prince George’s town, explaining that it as well as the Petersburg Battle field are within the county limits.
War continues and currently the U.S. has been battling its enemy for 16 years with the largest population of young veterans since the Vietnam War deploying to the Middle East and South Korea as well as training across the country.
“The legacy of the generations of patriots who dedicated themselves to the defense of our country makes us strong and resilient as a nation. We must be constantly vigilant that the freedoms our veterans secured and the security they defended are not threatened or taken for granted,” Drushal added.
“As the saying goes, soldiers are not in the army... they are the army.
“Our trucks, vessels, tanks, helicopters and howitzers are nothing without the trusted professionals who make them work,” the general concluded. “And those soldiers are a direct reflection of what’s best about America. In fact, they are America. They are the heart, the soul and the spirit of the greatest nation on the planet, and so are our Veterans.”