Saluting heroes who served, sacrificed

By Porsha AuzenneNovember 21, 2023

Saluting heroes who served, sacrificed
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, Fort Johnson commanding general, took to the podium as the ceremony’s keynote speaker at the Veterans Day ceremony held Nov. 9. (Photo Credit: Porsha Auzenne) VIEW ORIGINAL
Saluting heroes who served, sacrificed
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner (second from right), Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson commanding general, and acting deputy garrison commander Mark Lesie (right) salute during the wreath laying at the Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 9. (Photo Credit: Angie Thorne) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT JOHNSON, La. — The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson held a ceremony Nov. 9 to honor America’s veterans, celebrating their willingness to serve and selfless sacrifice. Whether these veterans are Soldiers, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, Marines, Airmen or Guardians, Veterans Day is a day in which these heroes are honored and thanked for their courage and bravery.

Approximately 200 members of the Fort Johnson community gathered at the 1st Battalion, 5th Aviation Regiment hangar in the morning hours of Nov. 9. Mark Leslie, Fort Johnson’s acting deputy garrison commander, an Army veteran who served in Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, shared his thoughts about Veterans Day with the audience.

“Veterans gather on this day because they long to be with the people who once acted their best and who once served and sacrificed together,” Leslie said.

He mentioned how less than 7% of the U.S. population serves in uniform.

“That is a pretty incredible statistic,” Leslie said. “To me, this makes the less than 7% somewhat noteworthy. Not better, because we’re all Americans, but special. The protectors of the other 93% are the ones willing to put their lives on the line and endure the less than predictable lifestyle of the military for the rest of the nation. The people I admire, my heroes, are not entertainers, athletes, designers, singers, influencers, actors or billionaires. Mine are the great leaders of those I saw shoulder the hard decisions that come with the privilege of being a leader and the dozens, if not hundreds, I witnessed do incredibly selfless acts at extreme risk to themselves for the person next to them. Those individuals are scattered across this country — many alive and well, many in cemeteries and some sitting right here in this hangar. Those men and women are American veterans, and they are my heroes.”

Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, Fort Johnson commanding general, took to the podium as the ceremony’s keynote speaker.

“We must always provide a platform for our veterans, service members and military Families to share their stories. In doing so we honor their voices, amplify their experiences and let them know that we, as a nation, are listening,” Gardner said. “Each year, across the country, we set this day aside to celebrate and pay tribute to America’s veterans for their devotion, patriotism, selfless service and sacrifice on behalf of us all. There are more than 18 million veterans alive today. Their service spans World War II to our latest conflicts in the Middle East. They are brave men and women from all walks of life who stepped forward to defend our nation throughout our history.”

Gardner proceeded to pay tribute to Fort Johnson’s very own veterans.

“To our veterans still serving at Fort Johnson, we say thank you. Thank you for your sacrifices, for your wisdom and for choosing to serve, even when you’ve already given so much. Your legacy is not just in the battles you fought, but in the Soldiers you inspire every day. In honoring you, we are reminded of the infinite debt we owe to all veterans, past, present and future. You are the heart of our communities and of Fort Johnson.”

Gardner closed by reminding the audience of the significance of Veterans Day.

“Today, let us not just celebrate Veterans Day as a mere holiday. Let it be a reminder of the best of America — those who have given so much to ensure our freedom. As we look towards the future, let's commit ourselves to honor their sacrifices, not just in words but in deeds.”

Fort Johnson’s Veterans Day ceremony concluded with a wreath laying by Gardner and Leslie followed by the playing of all branch service songs by the Leesville High School band.