Veterans honored, remembered at VA ceremony
SALISBURY — Veterans and their families gathered Monday morning at the Hefner VA Medical Center to honor those who made sacrifices for America with their lives and paid tribute to those who are currently serving in the armed forces, a day after the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, honors the end of the Great War that drew to a close at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. In 1954, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day.
VA Medical Center Director Joseph Vaughn was the keynote speaker. Vaughn was appointed to head the Salisbury facility in March. Vaughn served in the Navy from 1983 to 1993, completing four Mediterranean cruises. He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal.
He spoke about the care he and other veterans receive at the VA hospital. He said despite the negative attention for the Department of Veterans Affairs across the country, he’s proud to say he has received excellent care at VA hospitals.
He said the VA holds true to its core values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence — I CARE.
“These values are not just words we throw around,” Vaughn said to a room full of veterans and family members.
The I CARE values include being truly “veteran-centric” and treating veterans with respect and dignity, he said.
“Show respect to earn it,” the statement goes.
“I would say any veteran has earned respect and then some,” Vaughn said.
Steve Fezler, director of Salisbury National Cemetery, said his father is a veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack. Fezler called him Sunday to personally thank him for his service.
“It’s our duty to remember the sacrifices of all veterans and make sure our commitments to them and their families are honored,” Fezler said.
He recalled a quote from Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins, who is a retired captain in the Army, turned her thoughts to North Ogden, Utah, Mayor Brent Taylor, who was killed in Afghanistan last week on his fourth deployment.
“Hug a veteran today and tell them, ‘I really appreciate what you have done,’ ” Heggins said.
Ronnie Smith, an Air Force veteran and community advocate, spoke of the proposed expansion of Salisbury National Cemetery and completion of the Rowan County Veterans Memorial Wall.
“We should celebrate veterans. They deserve it. Veterans are the ones who protect our freedoms,” Smith said.
Smith quoted Ronald Reagan, saying, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.”
Three veterans were presented with awards: Harry Garwood, veteran of the year; Chaplain David Hand, chaplain of the year; and Hercules Shannon, who was named service officer of the year.
Garwood and Shannon are members of Harold B. Jarrett American Legion Post 342. Hand is a member of AMVETS Post 845.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.