The best way to show support for veterans is to urge legislators to make changes in programs and services offered to those who have served the country, retired Air Force Master Sgt. Joe Bill Brannon said.
Brannon was keynote speaker Monday during the annual community Veterans Day program, hosted by the American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 and the Averitt Center for the Arts.
“We are here not to only celebrate the sacrifices and services of our veterans, but to thank them,” he said, pointing out the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Veterans Day honors all veterans of all wars, while Memorial Day is to honor those who served and are no longer living, he said.
“Our military, without a doubt, is the greatest in the world,” he said. “Even our strongest enemies recognize that. Our veterans are the heart core of our American forces.”
Brannon spoke of the sacrifices paid by members of the military: having to be away from family during holidays and milestones; missing important events such as the birth of a child; or having to move their families often.
A soldier on tour is never “not a soldier,” he said. On duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are “no holidays, no rest breaks, no coffee breaks,” he said.
The physical and mental tolls and damages from military service, especially during war time, are significant, he said.
Brannon spoke about the birth of his daughters when he served in the
military, and the fact that his son was 5 months old before he ever saw him.
As he served his country during the Vietnam war, “I lived not knowing whether Bill Jr. would grow up with a father. It’s just part of the service and sacrifice – unless you experience it, you don’t think about it that much,” he said.
A soldier’s priority is his or her commitment to serving the country, Brannon said.
“Mission first — the only thing that matters is mission,” he said. “Their dedication to service is what makes our military so good.”
The fact that every soldier who has served since the Vietnam War has volunteered is impressive, he added.
But veterans are not treated properly. For all their sacrifice and service, programs and services offered to veterans are lacking, Brannon said.
“The VA needs better services,” he said, speaking about backlogged cases and lack of resources for veterans, especially those injured in the line of duty or suffering from service-related issues. “We as civilians can stop that.”
He urged residents to contact local legislators and demand increased funding and support of veterans’ services.
Brannon also expressed concern over lack of awareness of the importance of veterans.
In the weeks leading up to last week’s election, including the presidential and vice presidential debates, “I heard not one word about the national debt of gratitude we owe our veterans,” he said. “We as American citizens should always be concerned about our veterans. Veterans need a lot more than a pat on the back.”
Monday’s program was led by Dan Foglio, past commander of American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90.
Legion member Tom Barnard led the opening ceremony and Chaplain Charlie Williams offered prayer.
Before the program, Julian and June Ward provided musical entertainment.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.