Pausing On Nov. 11

Pausing On Nov. 11

GEORGE JURAND (in foreground) salutes the American flag as other community members place their hands over their hearts during the singing of the National Anthem at the Lexington Veterans Day ceremony. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photo)

Pausing On Nov. 11

LOCAL VETERANS Rich Hastings and Maria Quillin greet one another inside the veterans memorial as all veterans in attendance at Monday’s Veterans Day ceremony were called forward to be recognized. Just behind them is veteran Ron Nelson, while to the left is Navy veteran George Jurand. In the background, Waddell Elementary third-graders sing “I’m Proud To Be An American.” (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photo)

Pausing On Nov. 11
Pausing On Nov. 11

ABOVE, the Marine Corps League color guard presents U.S. colors for the national anthem. AT FAR LEFT, retired Navy Cmdr. Rich Hastings and retired Marine Lt. Col. Adrian Gordon lay the Military Officers Association of America wreath. AT IMMEDIATE LEFT, Hastings escorts Nancy Cuzzimano, the widow of Marine Nick Cuzzimano, to present the hospice memorial wreath. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photos)

Pausing On Nov. 11
Pausing On Nov. 11

AT LEFT, active and retired members of the U.S. armed forces gather in the veterans memorial in Courthouse Square to be recognized near the conclusion of the Veterans Day ceremony. ABOVE, retired Master Sgt. Al Hockaday salutes during the playing of “Taps” by Col. John Brodie. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photos)

Pausing On Nov. 11
Pausing On Nov. 11
Pausing On Nov. 11

WADDELL Elementary third-graders (in photo above), led by Angie Rader, sing patriotic songs at the Veterans Day ceremony at Courthouse Square in Lexington Monday morning. The speakers for the ceremony included (at left, bottom) Tasha Walsh, executive director of the Rockbridge Area Hospice, who spoke about hospice’s Veteran-to-Veteran program; Marine First Sgt. Jonathan B. Faff (at left,top), the guest speaker, who talked about veterans who “paused” their life to serve; Lylburn Downing sixth-grader River Jenkins (top right), who said the Pledge of Allegiance is more than “a verse of words”; and sixth grade student Cora Conway (bottom, right), who thanked veterans “for fighting for our nation and for me.” (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photos)

Pausing On Nov. 11
Pausing On Nov. 11
Pausing On Nov. 11
Those Who ‘Answered Call’ Honored At Ceremony

Rockbridge area residents took a “pause” from everyday life Monday morning to honor the men and women of the U.S. armed forces at the annual Veterans Day ceremony.

“It seems fitting that this day is late in autumn, when the leaves have changed colors and fallen,” Marine First Sgt. Jonathan B. Faff, the guest speaker, said of the holiday to the crowd gathered around Courthouse Square in Lexington. “It seems as if nature has taken a pause and so has life. Many of our veterans are paused in their personal lives to go into harm’s way and serve this great nation.”

Faff, a decorated Marine, serves as the company first sergeant with the Military Police, Company B, 4th Law Enforcement Battalion, in North Versailles, Pa., as well as 2nd Battalion operations and training sergeant at Virginia Military Institute.

“On the 11th day of the 11th month, our nation pauses to honor and celebrate our veterans,” he said. “At the time of our nation’s calling, they go into harm’s way in order to preserve the freedoms that we love and cherish back home.”

Faff’s accomplished military career began at VMI in 1999 before enlisting in the Marine Corps in November of 2001. He served in deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq before returning to VMI to graduate in May 2010. Faff’s personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

“I feel it is extremely important to repeat Ronald Reagan’s words,” Faff said, quoting, ‘“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way we can inherit the freedom that we have known is to fight for it, protect it, and defend it.’

“At the core, Americans have always been willing to serve and defend our nation, which there are many currently doing so around the globe,” he continued. “It is important that while we recognize the veterans of years gone past, we remember those that are currently defending us.”

Retired Marine Master Sgt. Al Hockaday, who headed up the event, called Faff a “Marine’s Marine,” sharing that Faff earned that title the “hard way” through his service.

Hockaday, turning to the Lexington City Schools’ involvement in the ceremony, also expressed his gratitude for the community’s young people.

Waddell Elementary third- graders, directed by Angie Rader, led the ceremony in the national anthem as well as other patriotic songs Monday morning. The Marine Corps League Detachment 1351 participated by formally posting the U.S. colors. Buena Vista Police Chaplain Andy Wolfe led those in attendance in prayer as part of the ceremony invocation.

Lylburn Downing sixth grade students River Jenkins and Cora Conway offered reflection on veterans’ service in speeches they prepared on the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“When we pledge allegiance, we are devoting our loyalty to a person or cause,” Jenkins said. “I am grateful for those courageous men and women who are willing to fight for my freedom.”

“To me, the pledge is much more than a verse of words,” he continued. “It is a special reminder of how our nation can be united and all the people who have made sacrifices to preserve our freedom.”

“Our country is indivisible because we stay together through the toughest of times,” Conway said, “if it’s mourning a loss, rebuilding after a disaster, or working together to solve a problem.

“When I say the pledge every morning, I am proud to be an American [for these reasons],” she continued. “Thank you, veterans, for fighting for our nation and for me.”

Gratitude for veterans was also echoed in Lexington Mayor Frank Friedman’s welcoming remarks.

“We come together not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans, to acknowledge the women and men who have courageously served our community and our country.”

Friedman invited the audience to pause for a moment of silence to remember those who had made the ultimate sacrifice in military service, naming fallen local heroes Army 1st Lt. Chase Prasnicki and Capt. Drew Ross.

Offering his remarks on the presentation of the Military Officers Association of America memorial wreath, retired Army Col. Scott Risser said the mission of George Marshall chapter of the MOAA is to serve Virginia veterans and their families, with special emphasis on Rockbridge residents.

“We are proud to join you today to honor the service of all Rockbridge County veterans,” Risser said.

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Adrian Gordon and retired Navy Cmdr. Rich Hastings came forward to place the Military Officers Association of America memorial wreath.

For the presentation of the Hospice memorial wreath, Rockbridge Area Hospice Executive Director Tasha Walsh also spoke to the goals of giving back to local veterans.

“It takes a lot of labor to come into life and it takes labor to go out of life,” Walsh said. “Veterans know labor, they know hard work. They also know labor is often easier with the help of friends, comrades, supports, their buddies.”

Walsh explained the hospice’s Veteran-to-Veteran program builds off of this support system, offering veterans who are nearing the end of their lives someone to speak to with shared experiences, bringing them peace and comfort.

“We help veterans finish strong,” Walsh said. “We help them finish with dignity and respect in honor of the country they have served so well.”

Following Walsh’s words, Hockaday called upon the wife of a late Marine in the audience, Nancy Cuzzimano, to assist Hastings in the placement of the hospice wreath, in recognition of her husband Nick Cuzzimano, who had been a member of the Marine Corps League Rockbridge Patriots Detachment color guard.

After the red, white and blue memorial wreaths were placed, Hockaday announced the service call of honor, inviting service men and women into the memorial area of the square. To the tune of “I’m Proud to Be an American,” performed by the Waddell third grade class, veterans of the Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, Merchant Marines, Marine Corps and Army stepped into view from the audience. VMI band director Col. John Brodie appeared following the call of honor to perform “Taps” to close to the ceremony, along with a short benediction by Chaplain Wolfe.

“Freedom is not free,” Hockaday said. He gestured to the pack of local veterans, some in uniform, others in everyday clothes, gathered as one to pause in a moment of honor.

“It takes men and women of conviction and these men and women have answered the call of their country.”

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