RICHMOND, Va. –
Virginia National Guard personnel honored the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the armed forces at ceremonies across Virginia Nov. 11, 2022, in honor of Veterans Day.
The 66th annual Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony honored those who have served and are currently serving in the United States armed forces at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Virginia. Retired Maj. Gen. Craig Crenshaw, the Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, made remarks and introduced Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, the keynote speaker for the event.
“When the country called to defend her freedoms, our veterans answered,” Youngkin said. “When the call was made to venture forward into unknown territories to safeguard our independence and protect our rights, our veterans answered.”
He said that if call is made to champion those missions once again, we may all rest assured knowing the courageous men and women in the uniform of freedom will dutiful answer that call.
“The commonwealth and nation have one sentiment to express to all of you today: thank you,” Youngkin said. “Thank you for always answering the call to sacrifice, to protect and to serve.”
Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, delivered remarks during the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony as well.
“As the combat reserve of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force and part of Virginia’s multi-agency response capabilities, our team of Soldiers, Airmen, members of the Virginia Defense Force and our state and federal civilians are proud to join fellow Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors to keep our commonwealth and country safe,” Williams said. “On Veterans Day, we recognize their service, as well as the service of those who came before us, and we salute you today and every day.”
Both Youngkin and Williams acknowledged the high tempo of Virginia National Guard deployments over the last 18 months.
“The motto of National Guard of ‘Always ready, always there’ ring especially true here in Virginia with the unprecedented number of deployments at home and abroad over the last two years,” Youngkin said. “I hope all of us have an opportunity to express a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for their service.”
Williams said the VNG recently welcomed home more than 1,000 Soldiers who returned from federal active duty as a security force in the Horn of Africa and just a few days later our aviation battalion and our infantry brigade headquarters closed out their respective missions with NATO in Kosovo. Finally after Thanksgiving the Soldiers providing air defense in Iraq will return to Virginia. These troops are part of more than 2,000 Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen who served on federal active duty overseas in the last 18 months.
“These Soldiers and Airmen left their loved ones, communities, and jobs to answer the call,” Williams said. “Like their counterparts in the Reserves and Active Duty, while they were gone, they missed youth sports games, church gatherings, birthdays, Thanksgiving and holiday celebrations, and they missed sharing their anniversaries with their spouses. We owe a tremendous thanks to their loved ones as well as their employers for their continued patriotic support which is so critical to our mission.”
Williams said while many Soldiers have returned home, it is important to remember there are still personnel who will be away from their loved ones during the holiday season
“Please keep them and all the members of the Armed Forces in your thoughts and prayers,” Williams said.
Staff Sgt. Austin Sturtz led the Pledge of Allegiance. He is assigned to the Virginia Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, and as the VaARNG Noncommissioned Officer of the Year he represented the Virginia at the Army National Guard Region II Best Warrior Competition in May 2022.
The Troutville-based 29th Infantry Division Band provided ceremonial music at the event, and it was one of their nine performances in three days. They started with a performance in Roanoke Nov. 10, followed small group performances Nov. 11 in Bassett, Norfolk, at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford and at a University of Richmond basketball game. They began the day at the Virginia Veterans Parade in Roanoke and ended the day at the 116th Regimental Muster in Staunton.
Members of the Virginia Defense Force volunteered their time to provide access control assistance for the event.
VNG senior leaders spoke at multiple events across the state including retired Brig. Gen. Toni Lord at Deep Run High School in Hanover and Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Calley speaking at the Lakewood Veterans Day event. Master Sgt. Damon L. Obasi sang the national anthem at a Richmond area business.
Col. James C. Shaver, Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett garrison commander, delivered remarks at a Veterans Day event in Blackstone and recognized the support the community has given to the military for decades.
“This town is no stranger to sacrifice,” Shaver said. “This town has contributed its fair share, and maybe more, to the service of defending this great nation. Just look at the banners that line the streets celebrating the heroes of Blackstone who have served in the armed forces at home and abroad. Look no further than two miles east of here at the installation created from the heart of the communities of Southside Virginia to silence the threat of the Axis Powers during World War II.”
Shaver also shared how Fort Pickett continues to provide for the national defense by training warfighters from all services as well as first responders to hone their skills under the umbrella of public safety and acting as a staging base for domestic response operations.
“We cannot accomplish these missions without your continued support,” he said. “Everyone here should be proud to call themselves an American. Everyone here should continue to strive to be the best citizen to make America great. Everyone here should continue to support the military and encourage others to join. That is how you show gratitude and honor the veterans past, present, and future.”
Read the AG’s Veterans Day message on va.ng.mil at https://ngpa.us/22600