As a tribute to the United States military services, both Rappahannock Community College campuses observed Veterans’ Day with a short ceremony on November 9. “It’s wonderful to see so many of you here, honoring our veterans,” said Charlene Talcott, the college’s Warsaw Campus student activities specialist. Without the nation’s armed forces, she affirmed, many of the freedoms we take for granted would not exist.
The ceremony began with the presentation of the colors by a junior ROTC group from Rappahannock High School in Warsaw, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, sung by RCC’s Sharon Mann. Talcott then introduced the keynote speaker, Lieutenant General Carl Ames Strock, a retired commanding general of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He has also served as director of civil works and director of military programs with the Corps, and, in Iraq, as deputy director of operations for the Coalition Provisional Authority.
General Strock commended RCC for having gained the designation of a “military friendly” school. He was deeply honored, he said, to have been invited to speak; his remarks, on the theme of “Freedom Is Not Free,” emphasized that freedom must be purchased, not with money, but in many other ways, such as the responsibility of citizens to serve their country in uniform. “The real strength of our country,” he said, “is not in professional soldiers, but in its citizen-soldiers.” Those who serve for a few years and then return to their former lives, he said, set an example of their willingness to put aside their own concerns so that their fellow-citizens can continue to enjoy freedom.
Strock stated that today’s military services are strictly volunteers. “They were not drafted; they were called by a voice within. We have been at war for 15 years, so they knew they were headed into combat, but they were willing.” Even the National Guard and the reserves are being used for combat, fulfilling their motto of “When we are needed, we will be there.”
Each of the services, he said, takes the same oath. They do not swear their loyalty to any leader, as in other countries, but to defend the Constitution of the United States of America. They keep this oath with the support of their families and their fellow soldiers; if they have strong families at home, they can concentrate on their duty rather than worrying about how those families are getting along without them. “The families may not all support the war, but they all support their soldiers.”
Strock concluded by listing a few of the ways civilians can help returning veterans, some of them suffering from terrible wounds. “Offer them employment, ask them about their service, encourage them to get an education and thank them, on Veterans’ Day and every day.”
Talcott asked all the veterans and serving military in the audience to stand and state their names and which branch of the armed forces they served in. The program ended with a short video, “Freedom is Not Free,” which salutes all veterans.