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OPINION: Return of events gives Veterans Day more depth
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OPINION: Return of events gives Veterans Day more depth

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OPINION: Return of events gives Veterans Day more depth

Veterans line up and introduce themselves at the Powhatan African American Cultural Arts Museum's first Veterans Day.

Veterans Day felt like Veterans Day again this year.

Nov. 11 is a day I look forward to every year, because it usually means attending some combination of events aimed at honoring the men and women who have bravely served our nation in one or more branches of the military. We were robbed of that opportunity in many ways in 2020 as fears about COVID-19, and especially surrounding some of our older veterans, meant that most organizations who usually hold events chose not to do so.

Thankfully, they came back in 2021 with a vengeance. Powhatan saw three local organizations hold Veterans Day events throughout the day – one new and two returning celebrations. Timing was a little tight in the morning, but I got to attend them all, and it was once again an honor to do so.

The new event this year was held at the Powhatan African American Cultural Arts Museum, which hasn’t officially opened yet but appears poised to do a series of temporary exhibits until the grand opening in 2022. Currently, the lobby of the Pocahontas Landmark Center gym has been outfitted with the photos, military uniforms, medals, awards and more of local black veterans who served their country.

What I appreciated about this ceremony most was the way veterans who spoke were open about some of the hardships they faced as people of color in the military but also appreciative of their time served and experiences and deeply proud of both.

Powhatan resident Freddie Morris, who served in the U.S. Army infantry from 1958 to 1960, didn’t talk much about himself when he gave the introduction to Veterans Day’s history and talked about honoring the men and women who paved the way for them. I got his number when I went to check the spelling of his name, and when I called him later to confirm his dates of service, we talked for a few minutes more about both the festivities earlier that day and his time in the Army.

Morris, who was in the Pocahontas High School Class of 1953, told me that after the crowds cleared, he walked around and looked at all of the displays and veterans’ photographs. He and his brothers all served in the military though in different branches. All three had photos on display in the museum and he enjoyed seeing them there.

“I felt a lot of joy. The military duty for me was pretty pleasant. It disciplined me. I learned to obey orders and then at times I had to give orders because I became a squad leader,” he said.

I had to leave the museum a few minutes before the ceremony ended to get to the one American Legion Post 201 was holding at the War Memorial Cultural Arts and Community Center. I have been attending this ceremony for several years now, and although it changes very little from year to year, it is always capable of squeezing your heart a little.

Dr. Harold Young, a neurosurgeon who served in the Vietnam War, was the keynote speaker, and his focus on the devastating effects of PTSD on our veterans and the rampant rate of suicide among veterans was sobering.

At one point, he talked about something veterans with PTSD have told him about living with a condition in a world that isn’t always tolerant of it.

“I’ve had men tell me, ‘I wish I had a bullet hole; then they’d no it is real,’” Young said.

The day was rounded out with another familiar stop, the Candlelight Service held at Huguenot Springs Cemetery. The cemetery was decorated with lights in rows on either side of the monument that stands in the middle, giving it a soft glow.

James English, a member of J.E.B. Stuart Camp #1343, Sons of the Confederate Veterans, was the keynote speaker, reading his prepared speech using a flashlight in the darkened cemetery. English talked about his time in the Air Force, which included duty assignments in Panama and Ohio, before an accident caused by a drunk driver injured his back and knees and he received a disability rating.

Once again, the most haunting moment for me during the ceremony was the playing of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes by Pipe Major Lord David L. Hinton. I know the bagpipes aren’t for everybody, but I love them. As usual, as Hinton neared the end of the song, he turned and walked away across the cemetery, the music getting softer as the distance increased. It is always a moment that makes me pause and think of all the men and women who have served and all they gave up. And isn’t that kind of introspection and recognition of their courage what Veterans Day is all about?

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

By Laura McFarlandManaging EditorVeterans Day felt like Veterans Day again this year.Nov. 11 is a day I look forward to every year, because it usually means attending some combination of events aimed at honoring the men and women who have bravely served our nation in one or more branches of the military. We were robbed of that opportunity in many ways in 2020 as fears about COVID-19, and especially surrounding some of our older veterans, meant that most organizations who usually hold events chose not to do so. Thankfully, they came back in 2021 with a vengeance. Powhatan saw three local organizations hold Veterans Day events throughout the day – one new and two returning celebrations. Timing was a little tight in the morning, but I got to attend them all, and it was once again an honor to do so.The new event this year was held at the Powhatan African American Cultural Arts Museum, which hasn’t officially opened yet but appears poised to do a series of temporary exhibits until the grand opening in 2022. Currently, the lobby of the Pocahontas Landmark Center gym has been outfitted with the photos, military uniforms, medals, awards and more of local black veterans who served their country. What I appreciated about this ceremony most was the way veterans who spoke were open about some of the hardships they faced as people of color in the military but also appreciative of their time served and experiences and deeply proud of both.Powhatan resident Freddie Morris, who served in the U.S. Army infantry from 1958 to 1960, didn’t talk much about himself when he gave the introduction to Veterans Day’s history and talked about honoring the men and women who paved the way for them. I got his number when I went to check the spelling of his name, and when I called him later to confirm his dates of service, we talked for a few minutes more about both the festivities earlier that day and his time in the Army. Morris, who was in the Pocahontas High School Class of 1953, told me that after the crowds cleared, he walked around and looked at all of the displays and veterans’ photographs. He and his brothers all served in the military though in different branches. All three had photos on display in the museum and he enjoyed seeing them there.“I felt a lot of joy. The military duty for me was pretty pleasant. It disciplined me. I learned to obey orders and then at times I had to give orders because I became a squad leader,” he said.I had to leave the museum a few minutes before the ceremony ended to get to the one American Legion Post 201 was holding at the War Memorial Cultural Arts and Community Center. I have been attending this ceremony for several years now, and although it changes very little from year to year, it is always capable of squeezing your heart a little.Dr. Harold Young, a neurosurgeon who served in the Vietnam War, was the keynote speaker, and his focus on the devastating effects of PTSD on our veterans and the rampant rate of suicide among veterans was sobering.At one point, he talked about something veterans with PTSD have told him about living with a condition in a world that isn’t always tolerant of it. “I’ve had men tell me, ‘I wish I had a bullet hole; then they’d no it is real,’” Young said. The day was rounded out with another familiar stop, the Candlelight Service held at Huguenot Springs Cemetery. The cemetery was decorated with lights in rows on either side of the monument that stands in the middle, giving it a soft glow.James English, a member of J.E.B. Stuart Camp #1343, Sons of the Confederate Veterans, was the keynote speaker, reading his prepared speech using a flashlight in the darkened cemetery. English talked about his time in the Air Force, which included duty assignments in Panama and Ohio, before an accident caused by a drunk driver injured his back and knees and he received a disability rating.Once again, the most haunting moment for me during the ceremony was the playing of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes by Pipe Major Lord David L. Hinton. I know the bagpipes aren’t for everybody, but I love them. As usual, as Hinton neared the end of the song, he turned and walked away across the cemetery, the music getting softer as the distance increased. It is always a moment that makes me pause and think of all the men and women who have served and all they gave up. And isn’t that kind of introspection and recognition of their courage what Veterans Day is all about?

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

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