Veterans honored at ceremonies across the state

Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer (far right), Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army, salutes during the singing of the national anthem Nov. 11, 2017, at the Hanover Veterans Day Ceremony in Hanover, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

SANDSTON, Va. — Virginia National Guard senior leaders took part in Veterans Day ceremonies across the state Nov. 10 and 11, 2017, where they recognized the service of men and woman from all walks of life who answered our nation’s call and defended the ideals of freedom all over the globe.

“For the Virginia National Guard, this Veterans Day is significant as this year marks the 100th anniversary of many of the units in our formation today as well as marking the centennial of America’s entry into World War I,” Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia wrote in his Veterans Day message. “This year is also unique because for one of the few times in the last 16 years, no Virginia National Guard units are serving on federal active duty on Veterans Day.”

Williams recognized Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen serving today as well as those who served in the past, and he also thanked their families for their service and sacrificed for our nation. He also said the Guard owed a special thanks to employers whose support is so critical to the success of the Guard mission.

“While we are fortunate to have all of our units home now and over the upcoming holiday season, we know that next year more units will enter federal active duty and face significant challenges,” Williams wrote. “Our Soldiers and Airmen are also stepping up to make sure we are able to meet the demands of being ready to respond to an uncertain, changing global environment.”

Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer, Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army, talks with veterans at the Hanover Veterans Day Ceremony Nov. 11, 2017, in Hanover, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

In Hanover County, Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer, Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony at the Hanover Veterans Memorial.

“I want to challenge us all to make Veterans Day every day by never failing to honor and work for the men and women who serve and sacrifice to preserve our nation and our way of life,” Mercer said. “Their courage in the face of danger will shine like a beacon on future generations through times of evil and uncertainty. Their selfless service and sacrifice serves as a clear warning to our enemies that we will never abandon the cause of liberty and we will protect our homes, families and way of life.”

Photos from the Hanover Veterans Day Ceremony

In addition to recognizing the important contribution veterans have made to our freedoms, Mercer also explained why hiring a veteran is a really good idea.

“Veterans are citizens who have proven themselves to be servants, brave, resilient, and willing to put others needs and our country’s needs before their own,” Mercer said. “They demonstrate integrity, honor, loyalty and a work ethic developed from their service that makes them truly unique. Can you think of a better employee to have in your organization than a veteran?”

Mercer continued by saying that you can know a veteran is the kind of person who will show up on time for work, work under pressure, follow directions, work without a lot of supervision, work as a member of the team and understands good leadership.

“They will get results,” he said. “What better way to thank and honor our veterans than to hire them into your organizations?”

At Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Brig. Gen. John M. Epperly, 29th Infantry Division Deputy Commander for Operations, shared how veterans are a precious resource, more so today than ever before. Epperly recently returned from overseas deployment with the 29th, and he talked about the division’s role in World War I.

“My division, the 29th Infantry Division, as with most of the U.S. Army’s divisions, was born 100 years ago this year on July 18th, 1917 as America prepared to enter the Great War,” Epperly said. “It is fitting on Veterans Day that we take time to reflect on the past and remember where our veterans have fought and died. Given this centennial year for my division, I have often thought about those initial campaigns fought by the newly minted Blue and Gray Division that drew its Soldiers from this very Valley and the mountains that border it.”

Watch Epperly’s speech on YouTube:

Epperly explained that after the 29th Soldiers departed Virginia, they would fight in two pivotal campaigns on the Western Front in France: Alsace and Meuse-Argonne.

“The division would suffer nearly 6,000 Soldiers killed and wounded in just 21 days of combat,” he said. “One hundred years later, the 29th Division and America’s newest generation of veterans are still defending the Republic on distant shores.”

Virginia and Maryland National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division returned to Virginia in July after serving on federal active duty since November 2016. The Soldiers served in the Middle East in support of Task Force Spartan Shield as the first intermediate division headquarters under U.S. Army Central Command. During the deployment, the 29th ID Soldiers provided mission command for joint training exercises and military-to-military engagements with partner nations to promote regional stability and theater security cooperation.

Epperly said that while there are many threats and challenges facing the world, there’s good reason to be confident about America’s future, and that is because of those men and women serving today and the future leaders and warriors being grown at places like Fishburne.

“Our veterans, past, present and future will always be the most important component of the Republic’s defense,” Epperly said.


Photos: Richmond ceremony honors Virginia’s veterans

Photos: Flora meets with veterans at Roanoke parade

Adjutant General’s 2017 Veterans Day Message

Brig. Gen. Lapthe Flora, Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General for Army Strategic Initiatives, joins Roanoke area residents and members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets at the Veteran Meet and Greet held before the Virginia’s Veterans Parade Nov. 11, 2017, in Roanoke, Virginia. Flora, a native of Roanoke, was the reviewing officer and helped organize the parade that is now in its eighth year and recognized as one of the largest veterans events in the state. The Troutville-based 29th Division Band provided ceremonial music before the parade and played the national anthem.  (Photo by Christine Flora)