Veterans Day 2017 will be observed at ceremonies and celebrations across the region this weekend (Saturday). Events include the annual Veterans Day parades in Pensacola, Milton, Crestview, and Mary Esther.
The Military and Veterans Resource Center (MVRC) at the University of West Florida held its annual observance on Thursday.
“I want to take some time today to recognize that on Veterans Day, we remember those men and women who have made possible our way of life, our freedoms, and the rights, privileges, opportunities, and responsibilities we enjoy as Americans,” said Vice Admiral Richard Buchanan, U.S. Navy Retired, the keynote speaker for the ceremony at UWF.
Admiral Buchanan served over 30 years on active duty and was trained as a nuclear submarine officer with extensive operational experience in both nuclear attack and ballistic missile submarines. His posts as a flag officer included director of operations and logistics at United States Strategic Command. He now serves as Florida Relationship manager for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In his remarks, Buchanan acknowledged the military men and women that he referred to as the patriots who have stood watch over this nation’s liberty since its founding in 1776. And, while those individuals were drafted to serve for most of our history, he points out that the U.S. has had an all-volunteer force since 1973.
“Almost 50 years, we have been dealing with people who have made the commitment to our country to serve and to be able to risk their lives, because everybody who is in the military has the potential to put their life at risk at some point,” Buchanan said. “And, they’re serving to keep our country free and to keep the opportunities that allow us to have the greatest democracy in the world available to all our citizens.”
Admiral Buchanan says it’s important, not only, to thank those who’ve chosen to serve in the U.S. armed forces, but to also to find out more about what that service means.
“Unfortunately, statistics indicate only about 5 or 7 percent of our American citizens have actually served in the military, so we are shrinking our knowledge base for our citizens about what it means to serve,” said Buchanan, noting that this lack awareness has significant ramifications about the U.S. military is used around the world. “So, I think there’s a lot to be learned, and we need to do more than just one day of the year.”
“On this day, I think of my brother, who’s a Marine veteran,” said Navy veteran Marc Churchwell. “I think of a lot of my friends that we served together in submarine force back when I first joined in ’78 and retired in ’04.
Churchwell is director of the Military and Veterans Resource Center at UWF, which organized the university’s Veteran’s Day observance.
“It’s so easy to think back, as a submariner, the good times and how much we really enjoyed it. But, on these days, when you really reflect back and you think of your shipmates, you remember those tough, tough times when you had some pretty serious things happen, some horrible casualties. Fortunately, I didn’t have any shipmates to lose their life, but we had some pretty significant casualties and you remember those things that you tend to block out through normal (every) day life.”
According to Churchwell, for many veterans observances like Veterans Day help to unlock such long buried memories of their service.
“Today is special, because it does lend itself to some deep reflection and remember how powerful it was to have served and done what we did and continue to do as veterans, pulling together to support each other and to support our country.”
This year’s Veterans Day observance at UWF was held in the University Commons Conference Center.
The ceremony included an MIA/POW remembrance. It also featured a video highlighting the military service of many of the 200 or so veterans on the UWF staff, who make up about 10 percent of the university’s workforce.
UWF’s military-affiliated student body to include veterans, active duty, spouses and dependents is about 3,000 or 28 percent.
Churchwell says about 70 of them seek services on a daily basis at the MVRC, which just this week celebrated its 10,000th visitor.