A salute to those who have served
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer. Blake Belden, Staff Writer and Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Nov 15, 2013, 15:23
ASHLEY MCLEOD./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Tommy Sammons,dressed as Uncle Sam, marched alongside Trooper John J. Nichols, dressed as an original Buffalo soldier from WWII during the March of Veterans in the Chesterfield ceremony for Veteran’s Day.
Chesterfield County residents celebrated Veterans Day on Monday at the Historic 1917 Courthouse by honoring those who have served and who are still active in the military today.
Maj. Don Kappel opened the ceremony to honor the veterans. Kappel retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after 22 years of service, and spoke about the importance of recognizing those who gave their lives to protect our country.
“I have seen firsthand the sacrifices made by our military veterans, and their families, and it is appropriate that we recognize them,” said Kappel.
The ceremony included a memorial to a local soldier, Sgt. Aaron Wittman, U.S. Army, who died while serving in Afghanistan on January 10, 2013. Wittman was on patrol when his unit was ambushed. Shorty after his death, on January 29, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution honoring the sergeant, who was serving his second tour in the Army.
Wittman came from a military family, and graduated from the Citadel in 2009. He posthumously was awarded a Purple Heart, as well as a bronze star.
The historic courthouse features a veteran’s memorial wall, which honors those Chesterfield residents who lost their life in service of our country. Each of the fallen soldiers names are inscribed in the wall as a tribute to their service.
Also speaking at the ceremony was Chairman of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors Dorothy Jaeckle, who reiterated the importance in remembering those fallen soldiers, as well as those still alive.
The guest speaker for the event was Commander of the 59th Ordnance Brigade at Fort Lee, Colonel Thomas Rivard.
In his speech to the crowd, Rivard spoke about the history of Veterans Day, the symbolism in the red poppy flowers, as well as the importance of the military to our country, and the support the American people give them.
“I think if our country has gotten something right over the last few decades, it’s the support provided by Americans to our military members, to our wounded soldiers, and to the sailors, airmen, marines and to our families,” said Rivard.
The ceremony included performances from the Lloyd C. Bird High School Chorus, the Thomas Dale High School Band, as well as the presence of the JROTC from Meadowbrook and Thomas Dale High Schools.
According to Col. Rivard, our country has approximately 22 million veterans, equaling about 6 percent of the total population. Because of the sacrifices our military personnel have performed in the past and present, our country is what it is today, and the importance of the military, as well as the community behind it, is why celebrating Veteran’s Day is important for us all.
“On the backs of the U.S. military, with the support of communities such as this one, we have become the land of the free, because of the brave,” said Rivard.
Veterans spanning wars from across the centuries stood proudly at the Memorial Monument on the Boulevard in Colonial Heights Monday morning as they were honored at the Veterans Day ceremony, which was presented by the American Legion Post 284 and Robert E. Lee Post 2239, Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“Because of our men and women in the military who have served in the past and currently, we continue to be the freest nation on this planet,” Mayor Scott Davis said at the ceremony. “We have the bravest men and women in the world in our men and women in the military.”
Mayor Davis presented a proclamation to both the American Legion and the VFW, stating “November 11, 2013 in the city of Colonial Heights to show our gratitude to all living veterans, the disabled, those who made the supreme sacrifice for their country and to the armed forces of the United States who are currently battling terrorism and declare that we stand in support of our country.”
CAITLIN DAVIS./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Veterans salute during a ceremony in Colonial Heights.
Dr. Leo Hirrel, Command Historian for the U.S.A. Quartermaster School, spoke to guests at the ceremony about the change the U.S. Army endured following World War I. He said the war transformed the army into a “modern army.”
“After the Civil War, the army just lost its ability to fight as a major army,” Hirrel said. “The army had no ability to act like a big army.”
Hirrel said this point was made apparent during the Spanish-American War in 1898. The only reason the U.S. won the war was due to the strength of the Navy, said Hirrel.
“The problems became painfully obvious,” Hirrel said. “We had no idea how to mobilize an army, no idea how to build training camps, no idea where to dig the proper water supply so troops wouldn’t get sick, no idea how to get to Cuba.”
Following this war, Hirrel said, the army went through “a decade and a half of reform and rethinking.” He said this was the most important period in the history of the U.S. Army.
“By the end of 1918 we’d assembled an army comparable to the best of the Europeans,” Hirrel said. “This is the coming of age for the U.S. Army, the emergence of the United States as a world power.”
Hirrel concluded his walk through history by telling those in attendance that while Veterans Day is a day to remember all the men of the Armed Forces, it is also a day to remember the Army and the challenges it has faced.
“Think about how we do it, how we remember an army that somehow knew how to rise to the challenge wherever it came along and do things that could surprise friend and foe alike.”
The ceremony also included the laying of several wreaths at the memorial and a somber remembrance of fallen soldiers, in which current members of the armed forces carried banners of the faces and names of the fallen. Taps played softly in the background as the banners lined the grounds surrounding the memorial and hands were raised in salute to their service.
On a cool, sunny Monday morning, rigid arms crooked at the elbow in a firm salute to the nation’s veterans on the front lawn of the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center.
As several veterans stood up for recognition on Veteran’s Day, the Prince George community answered with unanimous applause.
”Across this great country and throughout the world, Americans will pause this Monday to honor our brave, fighting men and women who for more than 237 years have underwritten our freedom by their duty, by their honor, and their selfless service. We recognize that all of our veterans have given something of themselves to this country, some have given all, laying down their lives to defend our freedoms that we hold so dear,” said Jeffrey Stoke, the deputy administrator for Prince George county.
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A Veterans Day ceremony was held in Prince George.
The ceremony’s keynote speaker was Colonel John Sullivan, U.S. Army Chief of Transportation, who has served in the military for 26 years including recent commanding positions in Iraq and Kuwait. He commended the mutual relationship between Fort Lee and the surrounding communities; in direct opposition to a column he read that claimed the modern military isolates itself from society.
“My experience has shown that there typically exists a very close and vital connection between those of us in the military and civilian communities. And that’s certainly the case between Fort Lee, Prince George County and the other communities surrounding Fort Lee. In the relatively short time my family has been part of this community, I’ve been extremely impressed with the great support this great county provides for us serving at Fort Lee. And speaking for all on Team Lee, we’re very much appreciative of the strong relationship and very focused on sustaining it going forward,” Sullivan said during his speech.
Sullivan asked that the community continue to show support for the military, not just on Veteran’s Day, but every day, and to help reaffirm that support by assisting those who are transitioning from military to civilian life.
“This county has done a fantastic job in that respect, and I think that going forward we continue to owe our veterans support as they assume new roles in the civilian workforce and in the life of our community‚Ä¶we consider our soldiers soldiers for life,” Sullivan said.
Several other Prince George figures participated in the ceremony including American Legion Post 120 Commander Mable Farris and Judy Hamby, chair of the Heritage Center board.