Veterans Day is a time of remembrance for those who have served our country. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Veterans Day on November 11, 1919. In proclaiming the national holiday, he stated: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." President Wilson’s words still ring true as America prepares to celebrate the annual holiday this Friday. It is important to not only remember those who have died, but also those who have served and continue to serve this nation. Whether it is a former classmate, friend, family member, or neighbor—everyone knows someone who has sacrificed his or her time and energy for the safety of America. What better way to honor a soldier than to ask about their experience of serving this country?
Current Chicopee, MA resident and Marine Corps Sergeant, Ryan McMillan, believes Veterans Day is “a time to honor my brothers and sisters in arms that I have worked side-by-side with in garrison, and while deployed,” and McMillan continues, “these men and women have given an unaccountable amount of time to support and defend this country.” McMillan knows this from experience: despite being a proud Marine, he says, “I have lost a lot of time with my family and friends. Countless holidays spent overseas, or in the field, or even just in another state.” McMillan has sacrificed time with his friends and family for the safety of all Americans. This Veterans Day he plans on visiting both his grandfather’s graves to honor the sacrifices they made in their lifetime. Surely, they would be proud to see a grandson who carries on the legacy of serving the United States.
McMillan has been interested in serving the United States ever since he was a young boy. He first got the impression to join the military from his father’s military career. McMillan says he was at first intrigued by his fathers uniform and gear, but as he got older, “The terrorist attacks on September of 2011 solidified my desire to join in order to fulfill what I feel is a debt of every man in this country.” McMillan joined the Marine Corps on July 11th, 2005. McMillan was later deployed to Al Taqqadum, Iraq from January 2007 to February 2008. He served as one of two mechanics for the 2nd Marine Logistics Group as a Motor Transport Organizational Mechanic. McMillan believes he has gained a world of experience and many positive attributes that he otherwise wouldn’t have if he had not been a part of the Marine Corps.
|Marine Corps Sergeant Ryan McMillan of Chicopee, MA|
Sergeant McMillan is currently stationed in Westover Air Force Reserve Base in Chicopee, MA, where he remains committed to his service until 2013. He plans on reenlisting in the Marine Corps because he says, “there are enemies out there that want to do harm to the people of this nation, and that threat needs to be eliminated.” Our country is lucky to have brave soldiers like McMillan so willing to fight for the freedoms we all enjoy.
|Danielle Hansman of Holyoke, MA|
Danielle Hansman of Holyoke, Massachusetts joined the United States Navy in May of 2001 because she envisioned an opportunity to one day afford college and to also travel the world. Four months after enlisting, the September 11th terrorist attacks rocked the nation, and the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions followed.
Hansman was stationed in San Diego, CA aboard the USS Decatur and was deployed to the Persian Gulf twice. Hansman held various positions in the Navy, first as a Gunnersmate and as an armorer. She served as a small arms instructor while on shore duty and by the time she left the Navy she was a first class petty officer. Hansman says she has “gained confidence and a fearlessness that I never had before, I left the military with the mentality that no matter how hard things are, I have to push through it. There were times when I would give up when it got too hard, but I don't anymore.”
Hansman does not have any special plans for Veterans Day, but rather remains busy with schoolwork, which is a celebration in itself. Hansman joined the military to pursue her educational goals. She worked full time since she was a senior in high school to help out her family, which ultimately made her ineligible for substantial financial aid. Hansman says today, “Access to educational opportunities was worth six years of my life and could have cost more.” Today, she attends the prestigious Mount Holyoke College where she studies Psychology and Biology.
Katie Reardon of Westfield, MA joined the United States Coast Guard in 2009, which is the only branch of military under the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard does have opportunities for deployment; however, Reardon states: “I have had opportunities to deploy overseas, but unlike other branches of the military, in the Coast Guard you have to have certain qualifications and recommendations to deploy. It's a competitive application process.” She remains in the United States and conducts anti-terrorism patrols, law enforcement, and search and rescue missions in New York harbors. The service conducted at home in the States is just as important to recognize in this day of terrorist threats. Reardon works hard to make sure the United States is safe, just as she would if she were deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Reardon says, “ I believe in the job I have been trained for, and I am grateful I've been given the opportunity to participate in a bigger cause than myself. I've dedicated two years and a few months to date and I’m looking forward to the new experiences and challenges I'll face in the next 2 years.” Reardon’s contract with the United States Coast Guard will end in August of 2013. As for her plans after her contract ends, she says, “I will continue to serve in the Reserves and continue working on my bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, full time.”
Veterans Day is a time of remembrance for those who have served our country. There is no better way to honor a soldier than to simply ask them about their service, what they have given up for America, or what they have gained from their position in the armed forces. It is the men and women that are detailed here that keep our country safe and out of harms way. Honor the soldiers you know this Veterans Day by sitting down with them and getting to know them, whether it’s that friend, relative, or neighbor—they’ll have something interesting to say.