A crowd gathered at Yadkin County Park to observe Veterans Day under a bright sunny sky. In a mixture of military dress, VFW hats, and even some scout uniforms people assembled in Yadkinville as they did in so many other American communities Thursday to honor the country’s veterans.
Yadkin County Park has already been home to a veteran’s memorial and some military hardware. For this celebration of Veteran’s Day even more equipment was rolled into the park. An Army half-track and shiny green Jeep garnered the attention of kids and adults alike, as the permanent fixture helicopter and howitzer stood at the ready.
The crowd was greeted by emcee Jonathan Phillips of American Legion Post 336 and VFW Post 10346 member, as well as an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Phillips said of his brothers and sisters in arms, “These people can be your family members, your neighbors, strangers on the street. We tend to blend in really well. We answered the call at one time, when our country needed us.”
Chaplain Ricky Johnson, VFW 10346, offered the invocation to the assembled followed by a rousing performance of the Star-Spangled Banner by Starmount High Senior by Alli Purdue.
The Presentation of the Colors ceremony had a representative for each of the six branches of the armed forces. Presenting the colors of the service branches were:
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Rickey Matthews: United States Army
Lieutenant Commander Bruce Flood: United States Navy
Petty Officer 2nd Class James Gant: United States Coast Guard
Staff Sergeant Neal Nichols: United States Air Force
Technical Sergeant Pete Knight: United States Space Force
Corporal Calvin Wright: United States Marine Corps
Phillips made special note when introducing Cpl. Wright to wish the Marine Corps a happy 246th birthday. The Marines in attendance offered a customary “oorah” in return.
US Army veteran Leonard Triplett, Senior Vice Commander of VFW 10346, spoke on the importance of what veterans had done and recalled his own story of signing up for the Army and finding himself surprisingly in South Vietnam in 1968 in the Third Armored Calvary Regiment.
“Like a lot of Vietnam veterans who are here today, we didn’t get a very big welcome home. My family welcomed me home,” Triplett said, “Now, I’ve got brothers and sisters out here everywhere, all over the world. Every time I meet a veteran, if he has a cap on I don’t care what he served in, where he served: thank you and welcome home buddy and ladies, welcome home. We did our job.”
Remembering vets who have stories not as well known is its own problem. Keynote speaker David Shore, US Army, National Sergeant at Arms for the American Legion and Commander of American Legion Post 336, spoke of the great contributions of Navajo code talkers during WWII.
Recruited by the Marine Corps in 1942, the code talkers created impenetrable codes for the military. Two Navajo ciphers were made, and neither was broken by the enemy. It was not until 1968 that their codes became declassified.
Shore played for the group a recording recounting how the code talkers saved many lives on Iwo Jima. With Marines pinned down and in need of assistance, sending the location and orders via Morse code would have taken 30 minutes. When utilizing the code talkers’ cipher, the same message was relayed in 20 seconds and lives were saved.
The code talkers received delayed tribute when in 2001 they were awarded Congressional Gold Medals. Of their service, the code talker narrating said, “If you love America, no matter what nationality you are, you fight for America to keep it strong and prosperous.”
Millions of Americans from every corner, of every color and every faith have made a choice to volunteer for the military. Apart from the Vietnam draft, it is the volunteer nature of the US military that sets it apart from others who mandate service.
“The veterans themselves speaking… and then the 21-gun salute. You have to remember those who actually died,” said Shirley Randleman, a former state legislator and NC Senate candidate, of the ceremony. “Very emotional, probably one of the most emotional services that I have ever sat through.”
Barry Groce, US Army, 82 Airborne, reflected, “It was outstanding. More stuff like this will help people to remember and not forget the guys who served.”
Those veterans are around every day, as Phillips said, blending right into the society they gave of themselves to defend. He noted a staggering twenty two veterans a day lose their life to suicide and encouraged everyone to “look for the signs and get involved.”