Ceremony Honors Veterans Past and Present
March 20, 2009
<b> SAVANNAH, Ga. </b> The late afternoon showers drenched the procession marching from Johnson to Madison squares on March 16. But the rain could not deter its mission - to honor Revolutionary War Hero Sgt. William Jasper and servicemembers past and present with a parade and ceremony.
After moving the annual celebration from Madison Square indoors to the nearby Knights of Columbus building, the ceremony continued with special recognition of attendees, including the 2009 St. Patrick's Day Grand Marshal, Father Patrick O'Brien, county and city leaders and a special guest from Dublin Ireland, John O'Donoghue, who currently serves as the Ceann Comhairle (Chairman) of DAfA!il AfaEURoireann (House of Representatives) in the Irish Parliament. His position is roughly equivalent to the Speaker of the House in the U.S. political system.
Major General Tony Cucolo, 3rd Infantry Division commander, addressed the crowd of civilians, servicemembers, and military leaders who gathered. He said the Secretary of the Army established 2009 as the "Year of the Noncommissioned Officer" to acknowledge them as distinguished professionals who, like Sgt. William Jasper, are willing to do whatever it takes to complete the mission.
Jasper was a distinguished Revolutionary War NCO from Ireland who died during the Siege of Savannah, Oct. 9, 1779. His monument stands in Madison Square.
Cucolo recognized accomplished NCOs from each branch of the Armed Forces who received special invitations to the event. He thanked them for serving as the "backbone" of their respective services. Before ending his remarks, Cucolo introduced 3rd ID Command Sergeant Major Jesse Andrews, the 3rd ID's highest-ranking NCO, proudly calling him "his wingman."
As the keynote speaker, Andrews recalled Jasper's service during the Revolutionary War and the attributes of courage, loyalty and dedication that he displayed. Andrews said that Jasper displayed the same strength that NCOs exhibit today.
Chief Master Sergeant Steve Thornton, 165th Airlift Wing, Georgia Air National Guard, said he was honored by the NCO recognition.
"Major General Cucolo and Command Sgt. Maj. Andrews put out great information about military structure and how things work," he said. "I'm an older NCO like Command Sgt. Maj. Andrews; I'm passing the torch to the younger generation."
Besides enlisted personnel, Thornton said he has also mentored young officers during his 34 years of Air Guard service, and that he's enjoyed every minute of it.
"The Year of the NCO gives me the opportunity to show Soldiers how important they are," said Sgt. First Class Jeremy Hernandez, the event's firing party NCO from the 1st Brigade Combat Team.
"I'm privileged to have the opportunity to mold and shape young Soldiers," he said. "I train them the way I'd want my own children trained. Hopefully, they will take that training into their Army careers."
At the end of the ceremony, attendees shifted outside under a slight mist in Madison Square to pay tribute to the Jasper legacy. The Grand Marshal, along with Andrews, laid a wreath at the foot the Jasper Monument.
"The Jasper legacy is alive and well," said Cucolo. "Like Jasper, NCOs today are the heartbeat of the Army. They are still portraying courage under fire, bravery and the qualities that pump life into the troops they lead."