FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 14, 2013) -- Fort Rucker wasn't shy about showing its pride for those who have served as hundreds came together at Veterans Park to look into the nation's past and honor those who came before them, as well those currently serving during the post Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 8.

Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. James H. Thomson Jr., command sergeant major of the Aviation Branch, were among those on hand to show their appreciation and they laid a wreath during the ceremony.

"As we draw down from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, we bring to an end what has been the longest period of sustained combat in American history -- more than 12 years to date," said Mangum during the ceremony. "Looking back just over the last century, you can see the number of times American Soldiers have been called to preserve democracy, liberty and freedom."

That number was represented in part on Fort Rucker by the men and women who were in attendance that have served in conflicts throughout the years, and were asked to stand as each conflict that the nation was involved in was read aloud.

People involved in conflicts from Operation Enduring Freedom to World War II proudly stood or raised their hands to be recognized.

As the nation approaches another intra-war period, Mangum answered those who would question the continued need for a standing Army.

"Technology and society have indeed changed, but those who question the need for strategic land power lose sight of history and, indeed, our very human nature," he said. "The world is changing rapidly, but the need for a ready and capable Army, teamed with capable joint partners, is and will continue to be constant."

In that history, since 3600 B.C., the world has known less than 300 years of peace and more than 14,000 wars in which more than 3.6 billion people have lost their lives, said Mangum, adding that our country was born out of one of those wars.

Although wars are started for many reasons, it takes the nation's greatest treasure to impose the will of the nation and end a war, said the general.

"It's the men and women who serve, on the ground and in the dirt, to impose that will," he said. "It's the spirit and will of those willing to serve … to defeat our foes."

Mangum enforced his thought by a quote from President Ronald Reagan that highlights the advantage that our nation's Army has over others.

"We must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women," Mangum quoted. "It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. Peace is the highest aspiration of the American people."

Michael Smith, an Enterprise native, was among those in attendance and said that for him, Veterans Day means just that -- freedom.

"We have to remember those that have fought for what we have today, and those that continue to fight for us to this day," he said. "Without our nation's veterans and the sacrifices that they've made, we wouldn't have the freedoms to even have this ceremony here today, and for that I'm grateful."

Smith, whose father served in the Vietnam War, said it's important to recognize that although people may not agree with putting our Soldiers in harms way, it's something that is necessary to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy.

"Nobody wants to see a Family member or friend go away to fight in a war overseas, but if we're not here to do it, who will be?" he asked. "If we're fighting for anything, I'm glad that we have our men and women here to fight for what matters, and that's our freedom."

Mangum also recognized the Family members of those who have lost a loved one throughout any of the conflicts.

"We can never repay you for your loss, but we can express our sincerest thoughts and prayers as you bear the burden of your loss and your warrior's sacrifice for our nation and world," he said. "During their service they are called Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Coastguardsmen and so forth, but once that service ends, they are, forevermore, known as veterans.