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Calling cadence
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Military veterans and their families have many stories about their time serving the nation. University of South Carolina's assistant athletic director Josh Waters heard numerous stories about Fort Jackson as he grew up.

"My grandfather went to Fort Jackson in 1953," he said. "I always heard about how hot it was at Fort Jackson. My father went to Fort Jackson in December 1976 and he always said he could remember how cold it was."

Fort Jackson and its civilian partners, including the university, gave veterans living in the Midlands a rousing Veterans Day celebration with several major events honoring America's Service members.

In its 100 year history, the post played a major part in the Midlands by training more than 5 million men and women and infusing $2 billion annually into the economy, Waters said.

The post began honoring veterans during a special Basic Combat Training graduation ceremony on Hilton Field Nov. 9 that saw roughly 100 veterans witness post commander, Maj. Gen. John "Pete" Johnson speak glowingly about retired Air Force Col. Jack Van Loan.

Van Loan was a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War.

"I guarantee the Soldiers standing out on that field feel good," he said of the Soldiers standing in formation minutes before they officially graduate basic training. "Do you notice anything different about your Soldiers? Are they a little taller? Do they look you in the eye?

"Today we celebrate their passage through the crucible we call basic training," he said addressing the crowd. "We also pause today on Fort Jackson to honor the service from all our veterans."

On Friday morning Johnson and other post leaders ate with veterans during the University of South Carolina's Veterans Day breakfast.

Johnson and other veterans were given a hearty welcome by University President Harris Pastides who said the school was here to honor veterans.

"I am so proud that for eight years USC has been dedicated nationally as a military veteran's school," he said. "We continue to recognize veterans … As we express our gratitude we must not forget" the sacrifices of America's veterans.

At the breakfast Johnson, who said he was proud to represent those in uniform, livened up the audience by leading school chants and calling the day "a celebration, not a memorial."

Veterans Day falling on the same week as the national election was ironic, Johnson told the audience, because "freedom represented in the election" came from those who "volunteered to risk their lives for their country."

Later that day, Johnson led a contingent of more than 500 Fort Jackson Soldiers (and the entire parade) through the state's capital, and watched as a park was dedicated to Van Loan.

At the dedication elected officials from across the Midlands honored the Vietnam vet and other veterans for their service to the country.

City of Columbia Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin said during the dedication that "we are a stronger nation" because of the efforts of Van Loan and other veterans. Sen. Lindsay Graham said during the dedication if people want to take care of veterans "like Jack" they should take care of veterans whose wars are "over."