With his daughter by his side, Navy veteran Russell Whisnant waved a small U.S. flag and tapped his foot as the 282nd Army Band, Detachment 1 played the Armed Forces Medley at the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home’s Veterans Day ceremony.
Whisnant, who served from 1957 to 1961, was one of dozens of veterans and family members celebrating in the newly-named Charles Esposito Courtyard. Esposito retired as executive director of the nursing home in September after 32 years of service and was instrumental in the addition of the courtyard in 1987.
The ceremony Friday featured comments from Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. and U.S. Rep. Rick Allen of Augusta.
“On behalf of the entire city of Augusta, we say thank you to those veterans who are amongst us and our friends and neighbors who are down range for the great work that they do in providing us with our freedom, liberty and justice,” Davis said.
Allen took the opportunity to share Congress’ efforts to support troops.
“I believe the United States Congress is getting their priorities in order,” he said. “We’re passing lots of legislation to not only honor our veterans, but also we were able to plus up our military budget this year and give our troops a well-deserved pay raise.”
Guest speaker Col. Mark L. Mitchem, U.S. Air Force Commander of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, addressed not just the veterans, but their caregivers and family members as well, calling them “heroes.”
“Wearing the uniform is an awesome privilege, caring for our veterans is an equally high calling and these superb professionals have answered that call with excellence and compassion,” he said.
Mitchem spoke of the meaning of Veterans Day, a day meant for all service men and women, but also took a moment to memorialize those who gave their lives for their country.
“On Veterans Day, we reflect on the sacrifices of the past, consider the dangers of the present and commit ourselves to a more peaceful, prosperous future,” he said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to those veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice, but we owe an equal measure of thanks to those soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines and coast guardsmen who returned to our nation’s shores to build a better future for all Americans.”
Mitchem concluded with a pledge to the veterans on behalf of the enlisted troops.
“We will continue to wear the uniform. We will never falter. We will not fail to carry forward your honorable service to this nation,” he said. “Thank you veterans. God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.”