FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker honored the nation's veterans, both past and present, at its Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 10 in the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.
Maj. Gen. Michael C. McCurry, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, spoke at the ceremony and thanked attending visiting veterans and Wiregrass community leaders.
“We’re thankful for our long-standing mutual partnership with our local communities,” the general said. “The spirit of patriotism is strong in the Wiregrass, and it makes us stronger at Fort Rucker. Your presence here today is symbolic of the communal trust and faith that inspires our commitment to military service.
“I would like to also recognize our families, especially our Gold Star families who are here today. We thank you and honor you,” McCurry added. “There is not one of us that has served who could what we do without the unending love and support of our families. Our families and our communities are why we serve. For generations, veterans assembled here and around the nation today have stood in the breech not because of what was in front of them, but to defend what was behind them.”
He then spoke about how Veterans Day grew out of Armistice Day, which celebrated the end of World War I.
WWI, in its immediate aftermath, was known as the war to end all wars. But that obviously wasn’t the case, McCurry added, as America’s veterans continued to sacrifice around the world in service to the nation throughout the following decades.
“These veterans stood for an idea,” he said. “We swear an oath to the Constitution, not to a leader, or a party, or a thing, but to the idea that all people are created equal and that together we will establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty.”
The Army knows that its greatest asset is its people, McCurry said.
“As a nation, we must ensure that the service and sacrifice of our veterans is never forgotten,” he said. “We have about 18 million veterans who served – 7% of the adult population – and 380,000 veterans living right here in the state of Alabama. Their service spans from WWII to the latest conflicts in the Middle East, but this year’s observance is especially poignant as our nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
“I’d like to especially recognize and say thank you to those who served in Vietnam,” McCurry added. “How fitting that I am standing here between a Cobra and a Loach (OH-6 Cayuse) looking at a Huey delivering Soldiers to the battlefield as I deliver these remarks. More than 9 million Americans served in Vietnam – you represented 10% of your generation. Today, 6 million of you are still living, many here in the Wiregrass area actively involved in supporting our communities, our veterans groups and Fort Rucker.
“To all those who served in Vietnam, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your service and sacrifice, and thank you for what you do for our families and our communities here every day. You are an inspiration to those of us who are serving,” he said before leading the attendees in a round of applause for the veterans of the war.
“As we say at the gate of Fort Rucker, ‘Welcome home,’” McCurry added.
The nation currently has the largest and youngest population of veterans since the Vietnam War, the general said.
“We owe it to these men and women to make sure they transition from active duty with the skills and experience to allow them to find meaningful employment. We must also uphold our promise to help them heal the visible and invisible marks of their service,” McCurry said. “We must ensure that they are woven into the fabric of our society, and we do not leave any Soldier behind.”
He closed his speech by asking everyone to keep servicemembers who are currently deployed around the world and their families in their thoughts and prayers.