|By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff
Veterans were honored for their sacrifices and contributions to the
military and society at a Veterans Day Prayer Luncheon Nov. 9 at Fort
The program included a guest speaker from the Minnesota Army National
Guard, special testimonials from Soldiers/veterans and patriotic music.
Tracy Woodman shares her thoughts
of what being a veteran means to her with attendees of Fort
McCoy’s Veterans Day Prayer Luncheon.
(Photo by Patrick Loftesnes)
Garrison Chaplain (Col.) Ken Lawson of the Fort McCoy Religious
Support Office (RSO) introduced the program and welcomed the attendees.
“Veterans Day is one of the few American holidays that still retains its
original meaning,” Lawson said. “This is a holiday where we remember
those men and women who have served in the armed forces, who have
served, or fought or died to help preserve the freedoms that we enjoy
Chaplain (Col.) Tom Phelan, the garrison site support chaplain, said
Veterans Day traces its beginnings to World War I, when the Armistice
came into effect Nov. 11, 1918 and ended the war.
President Woodrow Wilson designated Nov. 11, 1919 as the first
commemoration of Armistice Day, a day to honor World War I veterans.
After World War II, the remembrance was expanded to include all
veterans, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law May 26,
On June 1, 1954 Congress amended the act to change the word “Armistice”
“(The change) focuses the attention on the important purpose of Veterans
Day,” Phelan said. “It’s a celebration, an honor of veterans for their
patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and to sacrifice
for the common good.”
Phelan said the comments the RSO received from attendees after the event
indicated they believed the event was heartfelt and wonderfully done and
helped capture the essence of Veterans Day.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John Morris of the Minnesota National Guard was the
He thanked Fort McCoy for its excellent treatment of Minnesota Soldiers
who trained at and deployed from Fort McCoy.
“I’m honored to be with you, in the presence of veterans, Families, and
Department of Defense civilians and those serving in the military on
Veterans Day,” Morris said. “For me it’s a very special occasion, and I
want to tell you why.”
On Aug. 28, 1944, 12 Americans were killed near Épernay, France in a
battle that occurred shortly after the D-Day landing at Normandy. The
Germans fortified a bridge they knew the Americans had to pass over.
Morris said he knew the story from two vantage points. The first was the
after-action report. The other was from his mother, who was in a cellar
praying for their safety all night during the fierce fighting.
“In the morning, she came outside to see the American convoys sprinting
through the village, and, for the first time in five years, they were
free,” he said. “I know who purchased my freedom. So Veterans Day for me
is a day to look back and recalibrate the cost of freedom.”
World War I was fought on her property, and, after her experience in
World War II, she didn’t want to go through that again. She married his
father, a career Airman, and wanted to raise her children in freedom.
Because the volunteer force has made the concept of being a veteran more
distant to people in the general population, Veterans Day
events/observances, like the one at Fort McCoy, will become more
important to continue the ideals of being a veteran, he said.
“So we renew our commitment,” Morris said. “Those of us who have served
in the current conflicts, the Desert Storm veterans here, those who have
been in the Balkans, we who are veterans, this is our day to look left
and right and say, ‘What do we need to do help our society continue in
this war effort?’”
On this day, veterans can look ahead to their grandchildren, he said.
Veterans need to look ahead and contribute to society to ensure America
continues to be great and remains the dominant society in the world or
other societies, such as the Chinese, will dominate the U.S., he said.
Veterans can’t forget the toll of past wars.
“Today we redouble our commitment to service,” he said. “America must
remain free. We’re determined we are going to be part of the next
Sgt. 1st Class Greg Henry of the Regional Training Center-Central and
Tracy Woodman shared their thoughts of what being a veteran meant to
Henry said he came to the U.S. from Jamaica in 1984. He said his Family
was on welfare and it was rough.
“I remembered thinking what can I do to become a citizen of the United
States,” he said. “I was working in construction, digging ditches at
Henry decided to join the Army National Guard to help achieve the goal.
He was mobilized after 9/11. He talked to lawyers, doctors, and business
people who gave everything up to serve their country and fight for
Henry also served in Haiti and saw children in poverty.
Today, he and his wife live in Sparta with their Family and work to give
back to the community and to help reduce poverty in that area. Everyone
is in the U.S. for a purpose and has to remember it, he said.
Woodman said as the spouse of a military member, a veteran herself and
the mother of a Soldier currently serving, she looked at the military as
a place to do her job, and if she made friends along the way that would
be OK. Her daughter caught the spirit when she helped them set up
several displays to exhibit during Veterans Day presentations.
“Veterans Day means three things to me,” Woodman said. “Remembering to
honor those who have served and those who have fallen; encouraging and
educating the generations to come about patriotism; and reminding others
that service by our Soldiers does not stop when we leave the military,
because our dedication to protect and defend continues.”
The event also included the recognition of veterans in attendance who
served during the time of war dating back to World War II and special
patriotic music/testimonials from retired Master Sgt. John Wood and his
wife and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Perry Schmitt of the 88th Regional Support
Command and his wife, among others.
“The event closed with prayers for veterans, military Families, and for
the nation,” Lawson said. “Everyone present stood at attention as Taps
was played to conclude the well-attended event.”