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NEWS | Nov. 12, 2019

Events around the commonwealth honor veterans

By Cotton Puryear JFHQ Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force took part in Veterans Day observations across the commonwealth Nov. 11, 2019, to recognize the service of men and women past and present who served in the armed forces.

“It is so important that we pause each year to recognize our veterans, past and present,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, in his keynote address at the Veterans Day observation at Quantico National Cemetery in Triangle, Virginia. “Men and women of the armed forces have secured the way of life we enjoy today, and that same service, sacrifice, courage and commitment is being demonstrated around the world by Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen who put themselves in harms way to defend the freedoms that are so important to all of us.”

Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins both spoke during Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond. Brig. Gen. James Ring, VNG director of the joint staff, led the ceremony in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Sgt. 1st Class Calvin Bailey sang the national anthem. Members of the all-volunteer Virginia Defense Force provided traffic control for the event.

Brig. Gen. Lapthe C. Flora, VNG Assistant Adjutant General – Army, greeted veterans before Virginia’s Veterans Parade Nov. 9 in Roanoke, and the Troutville-based 29th Infantry Division Band provided music before the parade began. Two F-22 Raptor fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base kicked off the parade after the band’s performance.

“It is incredibly important that we recognize our veterans and pay tribute to their courage and sacrifice, and it is my honor to take part in the Veterans Meet and Greet each year before the Virginia Veterans Parade in Roanoke,” Flora said. “When we first organized these events more than 10 years, we had no idea how well they would be received, and it is wonderful to see how the community comes together to recognize our men and women in uniform for the service past and present.”

Flora also attended the Veterans Day observation at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.

Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Smith, Virginia Army National Guard command sergeant major, spoke at the Charles City County Veterans Day observation.

“Regardless of the reason, branch of service, Job you did, or years you served, we all soon realize that we became a part of an organization, with deeply rooted value, norms, and traditions,” Smith said.  “We slowly became indoctrinated into the greatest fraternity or sorority that exist.  With a nation of nearly 328 million people less than 1% percent of the American population serves in the military. “

Smith also talked about the importance of support veterans receive from loved ones.

“You see as a veteran and service member we don’t do it alone,” Smith said.  “If not for the support of our spouses, family and friends it would be a lot tougher to do our job.  So if you’re a supportive family member of a service member of a veteran stand and be recognized. “

Smith said the he was humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to say a few words in honor of this Veterans Day. 

“The one thing I can say without hesitation: None of what we accomplish today as a military, would have been possible without the bravery, patriotism and protection provided by many of the veterans sitting here today,” Smith said.

Airmen assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 203rd RED HORSE Squadron, 192nd Mission Support Group, 192nd Wing and cadets from the Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy marched in the Tidewater Veterans Day Parade. More than 100 units marched or performed during this year’s annual parade that featured representation from all branches of the U.S. military, and veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom participated.

According to the Winchester Star, Sgt. 1st Class T.J. Clarke, a Virginia Army National Guard recruiter and a 2004 graduate of Handley High School, returned to his alma mater to share what it means to give thanks to the country’s military veterans on Veterans Day.

“Veterans don’t join the service to be recognized, however giving thanks to our veterans is appreciated,” Clarke told students, and he reminded the audience that “freedom is never free.” He also stressed the importance of support from families.

“Our military families are the backbone of our veterans,” Clarke said. When a service member is deployed, “all the burdens of everyday life fall on the family.”

About the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force:

The Virginia National Guard is a unique dual-status force with a federal mission to provide a combat reserve for the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force to fight our nation’s wars and a state mission to provide a response force that answers the call of the Governor to defend the commonwealth. The VNG traces the history and tradition of Citizen-Soldier service to the founding of Jamestown in 1607, and there has been a military presence defending Virginia ever since.

Nearly 1,500 Soldiers and Airmen served on federal active duty in the last 24 months, and VNG units conducted a wide variety of missions including F-22 fighter jet air dominance, cyber, mission command, partnership building, sustainment, security and rotary wing flight operations and maintenance. They join more than 15,000 Soldiers and Airmen who have mobilized for homeland security missions, combat operations and peacekeeping and stabilization missions since September 11, 2001.

Since 2001, the VNG has mobilized more than 13,600 Soldiers, Airmen and members of the VDF on state active duty to respond to hurricanes, winter storms, flooding and other severe weather events across the commonwealth as well as in neighboring states, Louisiana and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The VNG also mobilized personnel for security operations in Charlottesville in August 2017 and 2018.

The VDF is authorized by Title 44 of the Code of the Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard, and it serves as a force multiplier integrated into all Guard domestic operations. The VDF reports to the Adjutant General of Virginia as part of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs along with the Virginia Army and Air National Guard. Members of the VDF volunteer their time for training and are only paid when called to state active duty by an authorization from the Governor of Virginia.

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