Rain held off long enough for the annual Community Walk to take place on Greenwich Avenue in celebration of Veterans Day on Friday.
The walk was followed by a ceremony at the town’s World War monument, the 50-foot obelisk in front of the town’s historic Post Office building. The event was organized by the American Legion Post 29.
The keynote speaker was Colonel Amanda Evans who is currently the Commander of the 103rd Mission Support Group at Bradley Air National Guard Base.
She leads over 400 Airmen across five squadrons, providing world-class force support services and logistics to ensure the 103rd Airlift Wing is prepared to mobilize and deploy airlift capability at a moment’s notice.
Prior to Group Command, she was assigned to the Pentagon serving as Executive Officer to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Evans said many people personally know a veteran, likely a grandparent or parent.
Evans’ grandfather flew B24’s over what was known as “the hump,” the dangerous Himalayan mountain range during World War II.
Equally dangerous, her father flew Huey helicopters in the jungles during the Vietnam War.
“Both these gentlemen served as young 20-somethings, and only for a very short period of time of about four or five years, and returned to live full and complete lives, always proud and reminiscent of their military service,” she said.
Evans went on to say that when people hear the word “veteran” they usually think of older people, or “the greatest veneration.”
“But I want to highlight that veterans are also young…As our aging veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam Wars dwindle in size, we start to recognize the growing number of younger veterans,” she added, adding that young people might not look like someone who has experienced war, but they have.
“But veterans are also women,” she continued. “As a woman who has served 27 years in the Air Force, I am often mistaken for the civilian spouse of my military husband. Unconscious biases – we assume that men are service members.”
I’ve also heard a few times from female service members that they have parked in a parking spot that says ‘Reserved for Veterans,’ and someone always says, ‘Hey, lady, that’s reserved for veterans,’ and I personally am shocked that in 2022 we still have Americans who assume it was only the males who served.”
She said women had a long history of military service. In the Civil War women prepared meals and sewed uniforms. In World War I they were nurses, but also telephone and radio operators.
“And in World War II, they not only worked on planes, they flew them and they trained male military pilots,” she said. “In the 1990s, we became fighter pilots and became Army Rangers in 2015.”
“We no longer look at gender, but we look only at the standard required to do that job, and if you meet that standard,then you can fill a combat role,” she continued.
Her last point was that veterans are both old and young, male and female, but veterans are also part-time.
“National Guardsmen live among you in your community, serving at a minimum one weekend a month and two weeks a year.”
“Part time National Guardsmen volunteer for oversees deployments. They volunteered during the Covid pandemic to help with medical needs and logistics around the nation. They volunteered to help respond to natural disasters, as we saw in 2020 and 2021. They volunteered to help bring order to our nation after civil unrest.”
Evans encouraged everyone to be aware of the unconscious biases that lead them to think a veteran fits a certain mold.
“Veterans come in all shapes in sizes, different ages, different genders, and full time or part time,” she said.
Peter Le Beau, commander of the American Legion Post 29 said, “Today we not only again face a nuclear threat from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but likewise from other nuclear powers hostile to the United States, including North Korea, Iran and most particularly with China, which reportedly has 1,000 ICBMs which can be targeted at our homeland.”
“Our military strength remains an effective deterrent to an attack from these countries, but as China continues rapidly build its already formidable military and its president Xi Jinping repeatedly declares its intention to retake the island of Taiwan by military force if necessary, the US and our allies must remain strong in order to prevent another world war that could destroy the world.”
Lastly, Le Beau said, “Remember, world history is demonstrated time and again that no country is attacked when it is strong – only if it is perceived as weak.”
Among the speakers was Tomas Jasson, outstanding boy of 2022 Boys’ State from Brunswick School. First Selectman Fred Camillo said Tomas was the leader of the local delegation, and was selected by five fellow students, all from Greenwich High School.
Tomas said, “It’s great to honor our veterans who have given so much to keep the United States great, and to keep us safe, so I can go to school, so we can gather here and not be afraid of being censored or people moving against us.”
Tomas quoted Ronald Reagan who said, ‘Freedom is always one generation away from extinction.’