By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterNovember 17, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Veterans Day ceremonies were held throughout the installation, from the Fort Rucker primary and elementary schools Nov. 9 and 10 to the official Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park Nov. 10, to honor past and present service members.
Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, presided over the ceremony to thank all who have served, including family members.
"It's an absolute honor to be here to recognize veterans from all branches … for the sacrifices they make and the sacrifices their families make," he said during the ceremony. "For all veterans who served, I want to say, 'Thank you,' for your love of country and for your love of your fellow man.
"You served when serving our nation was not popular, you served because you were called up and you served because you volunteered, and we're honored for that service," continued the general. "Our nation has been blessed with generations of men and women who have committed themselves to something greater than themselves, and we should all continue to be grateful for that."
During the ceremony, a wreath was laid in honor of those past and present service members, and service members from every branch of service -- Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard -- were asked to stand as their branch song played.
In addition to the Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park, the schools showed their own appreciation to veterans through celebrations of their own. Both schools held services where songs were sung and video tributes were shown to honor veterans of the past and present, as well as those Soldiers of family members on Fort Rucker who are forward deployed.
Dan Hartmann, Army veteran, said he was honored to be able to attend the recognition ceremony and show his respect to his brothers and sisters in arms.
"It's critical that we honor all of these men and women for the sacrifices they have made," he said. "Not everyone can put on the uniform and serve their country, and for those of us who did, it makes us feel appreciated knowing that we aren't forgot when our service has ended."
Hartmann, who served in Vietnam, said today's Army is different from when he served, but what Soldiers stand for remains the same.
"When I was serving, it wasn't popular to be part of the military," he said. "To me, though, that didn't matter -- all that mattered was serving my country. No matter what you're going through, you can rest assured that there are going to be those willing to fight for the freedoms of this nation."
It's that willingness to fight since the beginning that sets the U.S. apart from other nations, said Gayler.
"From the minutemen who won our independence to today's brave warriors all across every component and every branch of service who turn back aggression all around the world, there are Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their fellow man," said the general. "What makes America exceptional is, somehow, generation after generation of patriots who have served, we still have those willing to serve and risk their lives.
"Our veterans are a shining example for us to follow today as we look back over our nation's history," he said. "Across many battlefields and many conflicts, wherever and whenever our freedom was threatened, brave men and women have risked and even given their lives in defense of our great nation -- we will never forget that sacrifice."