By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
A Veterans Day ceremony Monday morning at Edgecombe Community College (ECC) was a mixture of celebration, recognition, and reflection.
“Edgecombe Community College is grateful for the men and women who serve our country,” said ECC President Dr. Deborah Lamm. “With honor and appreciation, we recognize our veterans…”
Janet Martin, parliamentarian/ Sgt. at Arms for the Veterans Student Association, asked the veterans present to stand as the song for their branch of service was played. By the end of the musical tribute, a large percentage of the 150 people in the room were standing. One of those was the guest speaker, retired 1st Sgt. Sam Bryant. Bryant served in the United States Army and worked for the United States Postal Service.
Bryant looked out into the audience and said, “We should be partying today and celebrating.”
The reasons that Bryant gave for the celebration are all the freedoms that people in this nation have because of the sacrifices the veterans have made. He read the famous poem, “What has a veteran done for me?” as a reminder of some of those freedoms, such as freedom of the press.
Bryant challenged audience members to treat veterans with respect, and take time to pay tribute to them for what they have done for this country.
“Being a veteran, I feel dedicated,” Bryant said. “Veterans feel there’s no mission too difficult, there’s no sacrifice too great. Duty first. Veterans believe in something bigger than themselves…Veterans have always fulfilled their mission and did what they were asked for this great nation.”
Bryant encouraged audience members encountering Korean War veterans in their day-to-day life to offer them a “special salute,” because those veterans fought a “forgotten war.” He reminded the audience that veterans return home forever changed after their time of service.
“All veterans are wounded. I’m not speaking about the physical wounds. I’m talking about the mental wounds,” Bryant said.
The atmosphere at the ceremony became reflective, as John Vaudo, commander of American Legion Post 19 of Tarboro, and post member George Young, turned the audience’s attention to a table set for one. The table served as a reminder of service men and women who are missing in action or prisoners of war.
“The reason behind it is to remember those who are not with us,” Vaudo said. “There are 38,000 to 40,000 unaccounted for. They’re in the jungle, they’re in a prison camp somewhere. It’s all about remembering them and hopefully bringing them home, getting them accounted for.”
The reflective tone continued, with computer technology integration student Levon Cherry’s reminiscences on his time of service in the United States Army.
“It was a privilege and an honor serving in the U.S. Army for 22 years,” Cherry said. Cherry enlisted in 1982, after graduating from North Edgecombe High School, and traveled extensively while in the Army. He said there’s “not a day” that he doesn’t think about his time of service and what the Army has done for him.
“The Army has instilled great leadership upon me and it still lives within me,” Cherry said.
Fred Jenkins, a human services technology student and veteran of the North Carolina Army National Guard, gave the benediction. ECC has about 200 students who formerly served in the military.