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November 12, 2021

Veterans Day address: Nation must never forget

History can serve to bring us all together. It shows us the fight spirit we need to keep this great country free.
The nation must never forget its defenders, a retired Army lieutenant colonel told her hometown audience on Veterans Day in Fauquier.

A 1971 Fauquier High graduate, Lt. Col. Linda Jolley rose through the ranks of the Army Nurse Corps, serving in combat and home-front hospitals, and held command-staff positions.

In her keynote address Thursday morning at the Fauquier Veterans Memorial, Lt. Col. Jolley used local stories and the sweep of history to extol the virtues of all who have served in the nation’s military. She also stressed the nation’s responsibility to its veterans, especially those who have suffered mental and/or physical wounds of war.

The Fauquier Veterans Council — American Legion Posts 72, 247 and 360, and VFW Posts 7728 and 9835 — hosted the annual ceremony, beginning at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The Veterans Day tradition goes back to the end of World War I.

Liberty High Schools Marching Band and JRTOC provided patriotic music, the color guard and 21-gun salute.

The text of Lt. Col. Jolley’s address:

Good morning. I am so proud to be a veteran standing before you today.

This Veterans Day, it is only fitting that we gather on the hill again to remember and honor the service and sacrifice of all veterans — living and deceased.

Our 29th president, Calvin Coolidge once said: “The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”

For in each veteran’s heart, he or she carries the memory of a comrade lost in battle or one lost way too soon upon return home. It could be from debilitating war injuries or Agent Orange diseases or respiratory ones like those from burn pit fires inhaled in Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Afghanistan. PTSD haunts our veterans and affects their ability to re-enter civilian life once they come home.

An obituary in The Fauquier Times on October 13th of this year honored Staff Sgt. Craig Aaron Pruden. He was a highly-decorated 9/11 veteran with combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. I marveled at the courage it took for his family to note in that obit that he lost his own battle to PSTD at the age of 33 on September 15, 2021. Just this past Tuesday, NBC news reported that we had lost 30,000 soldiers since 9/11 to suicide. That’s four times more than those we lost in combat. It was a shocking revelation.

In Sgt. Pruden’s obit, the family called on all veterans to do a “Buddy Check”
on those we know who are suffering from the effects of PSTD. The American Legion has made suicide prevention its top priority. They call upon all members to assist and have posted a number on their website: 1-800-273-8255.

The Buddy Check reminds me that during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, we nurses had Battle Buddies. It was someone we could trust with our lives. I don’t know how many times I had to wake up mine at 0-Dark-30 so she could go with me to the latrine, which was far from our sleeping tent. I could not imagine coming home without mine if she had been lost the times that bombs rained on the desert around us or when we were on the ground in Iraq.

Some of the sacrifices veterans make include missing the birth of a child or the death of a parent or a grandparent, the breakup of a marriage due to the enormous stress from too many separations, the financial toll from constant moves or the stress on children when have to leave their favorite schools, not to mention spouses who have to carry the burden at home alone.

The Veterans Affairs website defines a veteran of the United States as someone who has served on active duty in the armed forces. Veterans can also come from the public health service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrator or environmental science service. There are some great lesson plans on there for teachers to use, too.

It goes on to say that the military veteran is unique, in that he or she must have earned any character discharge other than dishonorable to be called a veteran. It doesn’t matter if they fought in a hot war zone or served during the Cold War. Their service matters.

It certainly mattered to the family of 1st Lt. Charles R. Anderson, of Warrenton, whose remains lie within hallowed grounds nearby. You might recall, he crashed a fighter jet in a field in Alberta, Canada, while on a training mission in 1957. It happened during the Cold War that followed Korea and before Vietnam began.

American Legion Post 360 is named for him and proud to c all him their hero. Larry Washington, our post commander, is a Vietnam vet. His purple heart is a testament to his sacrifice. I am proud to stand next to him today.

But, I would be remiss if I did not mention another veteran so dear to me today. It is my husband, retired 1st Sgt. Paul D. Jolley, whom you all know as “Dave,.” He supported me continually throughout my own career long after his call to service ended. I am here today because of him. Thanks, Dave. Thanks, Larry, for your service.

I like to smile when I say we veterans have a particular set of skills I think it must be in our DNA.

Consider a fella named Clay Preston Rankin from just down the road in Midland. Capt. Rankin earned a Silver Star and an Italian War Cross for his serve during World War I as a U.S. Army infantryman. His son, Staff Sgt. James Rankin is our own local hero. I know his is proud to wear that paratrooper’s uniform he wore in Korea back in 1951. His actions on that frozen Korean peninsula earned him two Bronze Stars. There was no backing down for paratrooper Jim Rankin. He did what his country asked of him and more. Than you, Jim, for your service.

And history teaches us that women can be mighty good warriors, too. There was no backing down for a woman known as Harriet Tubman. She was called the Moses of her people, who is more widely known as the conductor of the Underground Railroad. She also served as chief nurse for two years in the hospital at Fort Monroe that treated the contraband of the Civil War. Although she did not fight as a soldier, she served as a cook and spy for the Union Army. For her service, she was awarded a pension. I love history because of its inclusive on of people like her.

History can serve to bring us all together. It shows us the fight spirit we need to keep this great country free.

The World War I vets are gone now and, out of the 16 million who served in World War II, the Department of Veterans Affairs states that fewer than 240,000 remain. They die at a rate of 245 a day. It’s estimated that by 2045, they will all be gone. We must hear their stories.

Now, you may wonder: What about the sacrifies of our women vets?

I see some of them here today, like Liza and Joanne. The Defense Department states that women now make up 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Amy and 9 percent of the Marine Corps. Ever since Defense Secretary Carter Ash announ ced December 3, 2015, that women can serve in front-line combat posts, we have been steadily taking on those jobs that put us right alongside the men on the front lines.

Women, too, bear the wounds of war. Consider that Instagram post from Sgt. Nicole Gee, showing her tenderly cradling that Afghae tn baby while dressed in full battle rattle at the Kabul airport during the evacuation process there. I can’t get over how young, how sweet that Madonna-like smile on here face was a she sat, possibly dreaming of starting her own family once she returned home to her Marine Corps husband. We all know whe paide the ultimate sacrafice for this country, along with another woman, Sgt. Johanny Pichardo and 11 other servicemen that date in August, whe a suicide bomber struck.

Bu, oh, that one photo showe the world our humanity in the face of extreme danger. It was what defines us as a fighting force and it should make the rest of the world shiver at its awesomeness.

I can say it truly takes a village to raise a child. I remember my village. In 1959, as a 6-year-old child, I atended that one-room Rosenwald School in Orlean. I was still in my Dick and Jane first-grade reader full of one-syllable words. It was there I learned to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Mrs. Ethel Anderson’s class, where she taught Grades 1 through 7. I could pronounce the pledge OK, though I did not then know what it meant. I remember stumbling over the word, “indivisible.”

Today, I am reminded that in 1858, a young senator from Illinois famously gave that house-divided-against-itself-cannot-stand address in the state capitol. After the Civil War ended, the dream of an E Pluribus Unum — “out of many one” — was that of our nation’s 16th president. That same man was Abraham Lincoln. His words should still resonate down those halls of Congress todfay as we seek to build back even stronger than before 9/11.

Our Constitution has framed the foundation of this house we call America, but our veterans have helped built it and fortify it to keep it strong. We shall never forget our veterans, our defenders of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So let us continue to honor and life up the defenders of our nation, so that our nation, like them, will never be forgotten.

God bless you all. God bless our veterans, and God bless America.
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