Monday is Veterans Day, a day set aside each year to honor all those who’ve honorably worn the uniform of our U.S. armed forces; either in wartime or peacetime. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany during WWI. Beginning the following year, Armistice Day was celebrated on November 11 and, in 1938, became an official federal holiday. In 1954 following WWII and the Korean War, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day; a day to honor all veterans.
There are approximately 23 million living veterans in America. The most recent statistics estimate North Carolina’s veteran population at 766,000. Here in Ashe County, there are around 2,500 vets.
One of those veterans is Angela Reagan, Staff Sergeant, N.C. Army National Guard (Ret.), who, since August 2010, served as the Ashe County Veteran Services Officer. Retiring from the Guard in 2009, Reagan’s career included a 2004 – 2005 deployment in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
Regrettably, Reagan recently resigned her position due to health reasons, but continued to work well past her resignation date because of her commitment to the county’s veteran population. During her tenure, Reagan was a tireless and passionate advocate working with local veterans, their widows, orphans and survivors to obtain and preserve earned benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
Emblematic of the sense of duty, honor and country inherent in nearly every veteran, Ashe County was extremely fortunate to enjoy her service and I know I speak for all vets when I say, “we salute you Angela for a job extremely well done.”
This county has a vibrant veteran population and as I’ve mentioned in a previous column, there are a number of veterans service organizations operating that assist and lobby on behalf of veterans while also serving as bastions of camaraderie and fellowship.
The newest group, High Country Detachment 1389 of the Marine Corps League, was chartered in early 2012 with a purpose of preserving the traditions and interests of the Corps and assisting current, former and retired Marines and their families.
Chapter 80 of the Disabled Veterans of America is located in Jefferson. The DAV is committed to serving disabled veterans, their dependents and survivors and also helps active duty members transition back into the community.
Veterans of Foreign War Post 7946, also located in Jefferson, works on behalf of veterans by lobbying Congress for better healthcare and benefits while also assisting veterans with their disability claims.
The New River Chapter of the Military Officer Association of America meets in West Jefferson. The organization is dedicated to maintaining a strong national defense and lobbying Congress for the preservation of earned entitlements for uniformed services members, their families and survivors.
Blue Star Mothers Chapter 10, located in Boone, serves Watauga, Ashe and Avery Counties. The organization provides support for active duty service personnel, promotes patriotism and assists other veterans organizations.
If you’re a qualifying veteran (or a Blue Star Mother who has or had children serving) and are interested in joining any of these organizations, please make contact as you’ll be warmly welcomed. For everyone else, remember that freedom isn’t free. When you see a veteran over the weekend and through Monday, please extend your hand and thank them for serving; then ask them to share a story with you about their service.
Ken Lynn is a retired USAF colonel. He’s an adjunct online instructor with the USAF Air University.