By Jesse Wood
Nov. 11, 2014. The High Country Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America sponsored the annual Veterans’ Day Program at the Boone Mall on Tuesday, and as usual hundreds attended the ceremony.
At 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month in the year, veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces are recognized for their service. The timing coincides with the Armistice with Germany, the agreement between Allies and Germany to cease fighting in World War I, that went into effect overseas at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.
Tuesday’s programming featured the Watauga Community Band; an invocation by Sonny Sweet, a 31-year veteran of the U.S. Army and community stalwart; a keynote speech from Brig. Gen. Jim Walker, USMC (Ret.); attendance from dignitaries such as U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, N.C. Rep. Jonathan Jordan, Boone Mayor Andy Ball, Chair of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners Nathan Miller; Watauga Sheriff Len Hagaman, also a Vietnam veteran; posting of the colors by American Legion Post 130; benediction by Darlene Caudill and more.
Walker, the keynote speaker, retired in 2009 after 37 years in the U.S. Marines Corp. A brigadier general, Walker retired as the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandment and senior military attorney in the USMC where he supervised 435 attorneys and 450 paralegals in service around the world. Currently, Walker is the Deputy for International Projects at Samaritan’s Purse.
Walker noted that the U.S. currently has 23 million veterans. He noted that the figure “sounds like a lot until” you compare it to the 320 million citizens in the states. He even noted that decades ago about 77 percent of those in Congress served in the military; today, he said, that number is about 17 percent.
“Only 7 percent [of our population] served in uniform. Seven out of 100 is not really much,” Walker said, adding that in Watauga County that figure drops to about 6 percent.
Being a Marine, Walker defined the three core values of the U.S. Marine Corp – honor, courage and commitment.
Honor, he said, is doing the right thing. He joked that it’s “really just [behaving like] your mom is watching.” Being a lawyer, Walker said it has more to do with morals and ethics rather than if your actions are legal or not.
Courage, he said, is easy to see on the battlefield. But for those not on the front lines, Walker said that courage is the ability to speak up and step forward, for example, when that might not be the popular stance.
Commitment, he said, is the intersection of ideas and action. He noted that those who thought of serving took action and “committed to your country.”
Walker then took the time to speak also to those who may have not served in the U.S. Armed Forces. He talked about the uniform that military members wear and how you can identify certain characteristics of a service member such as their rank, medals or branch.
Walker noted that those in the Marines must take a test each year to test their accuracy skills with a pistol and rifle. If they perform extremely well, they will receive the “expert” badge or perhaps the less-skilled “sharpshooter badge,” and if they perform not so well, they receive the marksman badge, or otherwise known as the “toilet seat” among Marines. This badge, Walker said, must be worn for all of your fellow Marines to see for an entire year.
He then made it to the point of his story and speech’s message by posing several question, some of which are below, to those in attendance at the Boone Mall:
- If you were to prepare a badge of how you are living your life, what would it say?
- How are you making a difference in the community?
- How are you treating others?
- What would you do to change?
- And how are you going to try to improve that throughout the year?