Post honors veterans during ceremony
November 17, 2011
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 17, 2011) -- Hundreds of Fort Rucker Soldiers, civilian employees and Family members joined local veterans, mayors and other officials to thank, honor and remember the nation's veterans at a ceremony Nov. 10 in the post's Veterans Park.
Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, director of Army Safety and commanding general of the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, and U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Command Sgt. Maj. Tod L. Glidewell laid a wreath at the ceremony to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, all those who served in the military and those who serve today.
"Everything that is good about America is represented here today," Wolf, the guest speaker, said. "Each of you has my heartfelt gratitude for supporting the men and women who wear our nation's uniform. Many, if not most of you, have answered the call of duty at some point in your lives -- whether for a single tour or an entire career, during wartime or peacetime, to complete a college degree or carry on your Family's noble traditions.
"No matter what the reason for coming into the service, veterans remain very special people because they selflessly answered our nation's call," he added. "They all wrote a blank check when they entered the service made payable to the United States of America in the amount up to and including their lives. For that, our nation owes so much."
The general then spoke about how Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I, the War to End All Wars, but that moniker proved a little too optimistic, and the day became Veterans Day to honor all of those who served in the military in service to the nation.
"The United States of America couldn't have survived without the service of our veterans, and still we rely on the nation's military to do the hard work of our nation each and every day," Wolf said. "This fact is especially poignant as we enter our 11th year of an Army at war. Our all-military volunteer force began 38 years ago, and today I remain in awe of the courageous men and women, who even in the face of certain deployment to hostile lands, far from Family and friends, continue to answer the call of duty.
"Since 2003, in fact, and the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, close to a million new Soldiers have raised their hand and said 'Pick me, I'll go.' It is truly a humbling thing to be a part of," he added. "It is also fitting that we recognize your Families for their sacrifices. The spouses, the children, the parents of our Soldiers are truly the backbone of our Army.
"Our chief likes to say 'The strength of our Army is our Soldier, the strength of that Soldier is their Family.' We must never forget the dedication and the selflessness it takes to put the Army's needs before your own. I personally thank all of you for what you do each and every day. And most importantly, we also remember today those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom."
He added that at 11 a.m. Friday, a combined color guard executed present arms at the Tomb of the Unknown.
"Our nation's tribute to America's war dead is symbolized by the laying of a wreath while 'Taps' is played, giving us time to reflect on all our veterans and their Families have sacrificed and the more all of our country has given in the name of the free," Wolf said. "We mourn the empty seat at the table during the upcoming holidays. We mourn for the children who will never again enjoy the tender hug from mom or dad. We mourn for the spouses left behind, and we mourn for the mothers and fathers who have endured the unimaginable by outliving their children.
"We also mourn the physical and emotional wounds of Soldiers at war continuing to fight courageously each and every day," he added. "Though my words may be of little comfort, let me remind all of you, as I remind myself every day, these Soldiers, your Soldiers, all of our servicemen and women, gave whatever was asked of them for very little. But they were proud of the selfless service they gave to our nation each day.
"I don't know the name of every Soldier who's given his or her life for us, but I say 'Thank you,' to all of them, and most especially to the Families for what they sacrificed for our nation. They are truly representative of all that is good about our country."
Many veterans at the ceremony were impressed by the amount of people that turned out to honor them, including John McNair, who served 22 years in the Air Force and Army, and who added that he had something to say to today's servicemembers.
"Thank you so much for the sacrifices you've made," he said. "Hopefully, everything is going to work out good, we'll win, and you can come home, and you and your children can be safe and live your lives. God bless you all, we appreciate you so much."
Wolf added to that appreciation for the current generation of military during a media interview after the ceremony.
"A lot is said by pundits about our youngsters in our nation today, but I see it each and every day, these youngsters are part of what I call the next greatest generation," he said. "They really are. They say, 'Pick me, I'll go,' and not for any grand illusions like money. It's all about, 'I need to serve my nation today,' knowing there's that blank check. And they still say, 'I'll give,' and sometimes it's their lives in defense of our nation -- it's incredible."