Rep. Frederica Wilson honors veterans on Armed Forces Day
By Derek Joy
Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson honored some 100 U. S. Military Forces veterans on Armed Forces Day at the city of Miami’s Legion Memorial Park at American Legion Post 29.
Armed Forces Day precedes Memorial Day and recognizes all the men – past and present – of the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“We feel it is so important to recognize the people who sacrificed their lives for us,” said Wilson, (Dem., Dist. 24). “This is a special, special day. And for that we thank them and members of their families for loaning them to us on this special day – Armed Forces Day.”
Wilson cited each branch and its origin, highlighting the National Guard, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force. She recognized those who served in the different branches.
Copies of the Congressional Record, proceedings of the 112th Congress, Nov. 19, 2012, were presented to those included by Wilson to honor and recognize veterans in her District.
“This is the second year she’s brought this event to our facility,” said Jonathan Black, American Legion Post 29 Commander. “This year, thanks to Home Depot and the efforts of our members, we have made improvements to our facility.”
Wilson took note of the improvements including a complete paint job – inside and out – as progress.
Like the ball of progress that rolled when Wilson founded the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Program 20 years ago, the Federal Veterans Advisory Council is snowballing in like fashion.
“She’s known as the voice of the voiceless,” said Ed Haynes, Wilson’s staff representative for veteran’s affairs. “She formed the District 24 Federal Veterans Advisory Council because she wanted to hear directly from the veterans.”
This is geared to providing to assistance to veterans with healthcare, employment, housing, education and disability benefits.
“I want to recognize the men and women of all the branches of the military services for their commitment, service and sacrifice. We have a moral obligation to serve those who have served us,” Wilson said, who also noted the tremendous amount of talent among veterans in District 24.
One such talented veteran in District 24 is WTVJ/NBC 6 Investigative Reporter Willard Shepard who was the guest speaker.
Shepard, a native of Chicago, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, an A10 Jet Fighter Pilot, who holds the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, reflected on his first tour of duty in a combat zone.
“On my first combat sortie over Iraq there was one of you (Vietnam Era Veteran) of the same rank,” said Shepard. He called me on the radio and said, ‘We’re about to get shot at.”
That was a memorable com-bat moment for Shepard, like so many others have experienced. He also recalled the fear and terror in his late mother’s voice while talking to her by telephone after she thought he had been killed in action.
He also pointed out how not a single Black student in Miami Dade Public Schools had ever entered the Air Force Academy when Wilson founded the Role Model Program for at risk male students.
“We now have two cadets at the Academy and another heading Point,” said Shepard. Their families were presented with a check for $425,000, which is the value of an education. You will be a better person for having served in the Armed Forces.”
Talent surfaced again as Major Marlon Ferdinand, U.S. Air Force Reserve, and a Miami Dade County Firefighter, wowed the audience, with poetry, song and rap that embraced the service and sacrifices made in the various branches of the Armed Forces.
“Freedom isn’t free, y’all,” said Ferdinand, who served 13 years in the enlisted ranks of the U.S. Army before being commissioned in the UA,S. Air Force 11 years ago. Despite wearing this rank there is no me without you, all of those who served before me. This is for veterans. Keep on living.”
And so, the living is now gaining recognition for many of the Blacks veterans who served in the Vietnam War, which is widely considered the America’s forgotten war. It so partly be-cause it is the only war America has ever lost, saved only by a much higher kill ratio than that of the enemy.
As Wilson recognized Alvin Roberts, a U. S. Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, who heads the Center for Independent Living, Miami Dade County Com-missioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz for his work with the county’s Military Affairs Board and others, Bobby White is touting another accomplishment of veterans in District 24 on this Armed Forces Day.
White, VFW Post 8195 Commander, followed the suggestion of Dr. Ben Cowins, a retired educator and an Army communications specialist during the Vietnam War, who authored and edited the book. The result of a weekly PTSD Therapy session is a book titled: “Black Bullets, Flashbacks & 24 Untold Truths.”
Said White: “We’re telling our stories about our experiences in Vietnam. Wallace Terry had the only real account of Blacks in Vietnam. Ours is more comprehensive. It’s a legacy we can leave, a perspective of Black soldiers in Vietnam.”