Frederica Wilson: Honoring veterans as heroes in history
By Derek Joy
It was a moment of grandeur.
In what might have appeared to be a trivial event to kick off the celebration of monumental stature, the beginning of Veterans Day held historical significance for many.
So, when Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (Dem., 24th Dist.) was featured as the guest speaker at American Legion Hall in Miami’s Legion Park, the significance of the kick-off to the weekend of Veterans Day celebrations multiplied.
“She’s a strong believer in support of veterans,” said Gwen Belton, Wilson’s communications liaison. “Always has been. She’s here to show her appreciation of the efforts and sacrifices of veterans and their families.”
U.S. military veterans have not always found appreciation and recognition a common commodity. Their sacrifices and service are often pushed to the wayside when all is said and done.
Interestingly enough, that practice has become more and more prevalent.
True. America has seen engagement in some 18 armed conflicts, from the Revolutionary War that resulted in America winning her independence from England to the present day unwinding war in Afghanistan.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity for me as a congresswoman to show my appreciation to veterans and their families,” said Wilson, who recalled how, as a youngster growing up in Liberty City, veterans coming home in uniform were respected and hailed as heroes.
“We honor veterans because they give so much to help protect and defend our nation. On behalf of President Barack Obama and my fellow Members of Congress, I’m honoring veterans.”
Wilson had the leading role in getting Congress to fund approximately $40 million to renovate building facilities at the Miami VA Medical Center. She noted how trailers were being used at operating rooms at the facility. Renovations are progressing.
In addition to that, Wilson lamented, are the number of veterans who have called her office to complain about never getting any help or recognition for their military service.
“We have veterans as young as 20 and veterans who served during World War II at Pearl Harbor and one was a prisoner of war in World War II,” said Wilson. “Each of their names will be in the Congressional Record. That is the record of Congress’ activities for history.
“They are heroes because of the sacrifices they make. They go away, go to foreign countries, leaving their homes, families and friends. Their families sacrifice being away from their loved ones, sometimes losing them.”
The ultimate sacrifice is a reality for those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Their sacrifices are recognized on Memorial Day. Veterans Day commemorates not only those who lost their lives in military service, but those who served and currently serve.
Much to the chagrin of many, Wilson cited the lack of knowledge of Veterans Day. She complained that schools are closed on Veterans Day, while a majority of the 3365,000 Miami Dade County Public Schools students don’t know anything about Veterans Day.
“Why not have schools open, have veterans and military servicemen and women come there in uniform and talk to the students?” asked Wilson. “Then the children would learn firsthand.”
Until then, a brief lesson on Veterans Day is that it came about to commemorate the 1918 end of World War I. Hence, Nov. 11 was legislated as the National Holiday of Veterans Day.
Interestingly enough, military service was once required in America. American males were required to register with the Selective Service Board once they reached the age of 18. There was a draft to stock the U.S. Army, sometimes the U. S. Marine Corps, while the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard and Army National Guard were stocked primarily with volunteers.
Today, the draft is all but outdated as the U.S. Armed Forces functions as all volunteers.
“That was my way of getting the money for college,” said George Stewart, who enlisted in the U. S. Air Force following his 1965 graduation from then Northwestern High School. “And that’s how we went to college – with the G. I. Bill.
“Coming from a family of 13, I couldn’t afford to go to college. I served on active duty in the Air Force. But I retired from the Army National Guard after 34 years,” added Stewart, who is a member of Wilson’s 50 member Federal Veterans Advisory Council.
Said Bobby White, VFW Post 8195 commander and executive board member of the American Legion Post 29, where the event was held: “We’re honoring our heroes, we are so happy to know our Congressional Representative is representing our community 100 percent.”
Thus, when the 112 Congress convenes, Wilson will read some 200 names of U.S. Military Services Veterans representing each branch of the military service for inclusion as a historical first.