NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. –
Each year, November 11th is observed as Veterans Day – a day to honor the Nation’s veterans and celebrate their responsibilities and achievements in protecting the freedoms of the American people. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) Veterans Employee Readiness Group (VET-ERG) hosted the annual Veterans Day Fall-In for Colors Nov. 10, inviting the workforce and Sailors of America’s Shipyard to come together to celebrate our veterans and their contributions to our nation.
“In 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, an armistice or truce was declared between the Allied nations and Germany, marking the end of World War I,” said Command Sergeant Major (retired) Mathew Calhoun Sr., the guest speaker for the event. “U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that day as the first commemoration to honor the service members who fought in that war, it eventually evolving into the celebration we know of today as Veterans Day. Let us all come together on this special day to honor our veterans and their selfless courage together.”
Calhoun Sr. then shared a personal story from his time with the U.S. Army, speaking of an individual in his command, someone he referred to as Specialist Smiley in respect of the individual’s family, whom would often come to him with ambition to join the elite company of soldiers on the ground in Iraq. After months of fighting for the chance, Calhoun Sr. finally provided Smiley the opportunity to join the team. “He was a stellar soldier,” he said. “We ended up in an extended deployment where Smiley continued to impress with his work ethic and motivation. Hard-working and dedicated to a fault, Smiley’s contributions to our country are still visible to this day.”
He shared that Smiley and other soldiers in his convoy had fallen in the line of duty. While attending his funeral, Calhoun Sr. was escorted to the front of the church where 10,000 persons attended to honor Specialist Smiley. “His family came to me and shared letters he had written sharing who I was and how important it was for him that I had given him the chance to serve his Nation in our elite company. My decision to give this man a chance led him to serve America to the fullest extent of his ability and character. He was doing what he felt he was born to do. I still struggle with his loss and the loss of many of our soldiers throughout our time. It is the sacrifices of our soldiers, some giving the ultimate sacrifice, that protects our freedoms. I salute all of our veterans, including those who have fallen, and our service members holding the torch for us now. Your efforts are seen and appreciated, all of us touched by your commitment to serve.”
NNSY’s Business and Strategic Planning Officer Cmdr. Lawrence Brandon, who also spoke at the event, said, “Being in our nation’s armed forces provides a tremendous sense of camaraderie and teamwork, of serving a cause greater than ourselves as individuals. Whether in times of conflict or peace, so many have stepped up without a moment’s hesitation to dig deep and answer the call, sometimes even paying the ultimate sacrifice, doing so with honor and leadership, and constantly exhibiting service before self. Our shipyard motto of ONE MISSION – ONE TEAM is a mindset many of our veterans have been practicing for years and even decades, working alongside their military brothers and sisters in pursuit of a vital and shared goal.”
He continued, “When our nation needs us, our shipyard answers the call. That’s why it’s so vital we work every day as ONE TEAM in our ONE MISSION to repair, modernize and inactivate our Navy’s warships and training platforms to protect our Nation. We stand united as a team. Because whether you wear a uniform or not, one of the things that unites each of us here today is we all serve the United States Navy, more than 10,000 strong. Own that responsibility with pride and purpose, support your fellow teammates and invest in their success. I know from experience just how reliant our nation’s Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen are on the work we do in America’s Shipyard.”
Following the ceremony, Cmdr. Brandon hosted a cake cutting ceremony with Oscar Thorpe and Ernest J. Scott III, paying tribute to all veterans spanning generations and employed at America’s Shipyard. The cake cutting ceremony is a time-honored tradition in the military celebrating the past, present, and future of our Nation and those who serve to protect it.
The NNSY VET-ERG is comprised of more than 300 NNSY employees that are either veterans, service members currently serving, or those who support the military. At NNSY alone, there are more than 3,000 veterans employed with more than 650 considered Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Wounded Warriors. “We strive to keep our members abreast of available veteran and military related resources available to our veteran and military communities,” said VET-ERG President Josh Wannemacher.