JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Brooke Army Medical Center held its 3rd annual Veterans Day Celebration Nov. 2 featuring patriotic music, performances by a local high school marching band and drill team, a health fair and lunch.
BAMC Commanding General Brig. Gen. George Appenzeller provided the opening remarks, welcoming veterans of all generations.
He spoke about the history of Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, which was originally set as a U.S. legal holiday to honor the end of World War I, which officially took place on Nov. 11, 1918.
“A lot has changed in the last 100 years,” Appenzeller said. “But what has not changed is the dedication, service and honor of our service members and their families. We owe a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid to all of those who have served.”
The general said his role models and heroes were his grandfathers, who both served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
”They taught me what it meant to be part of a free nation,” Appenzeller said. “They taught me about sacrifice and what it meant to be an American, a citizen of this great nation, and a human being.”
Appenzeller stressed the impact veterans have every day on our communities and our youth.
“Every veteran is a national treasure who continues to serve, lead and guide this nation,” he said.
Retired Master Sgt. Walter Taylor, a former BAMC Warrior Transition Battalion Soldier, was the guest speaker at this year’s event. The former combat engineer was seriously injured in Afghanistan in 2011 when he was struck in the face by a rocket-propelled grenade. As he healed he continued to serve his fellow veterans and their families within the WTB in uniform and as a civilian.
“I always wanted to be someone that others would look up to,” Taylor said. “As a leader, I always felt my place was right there in front with my Soldiers.”
Taylor shared his story with the audience, expressing his gratitude and confidence in the care he received throughout his healing process, from the medics on the battlefield to the staff at BAMC and the WTB. He credited a physician from BAMC for laying out a plan to reconstruct his face after the devastating injury.
“I didn’t know who I was going to be after I got hurt,” Taylor said. “I knew my career (in the Army) was possibly over. I didn’t know if all the pieces of me could come back together, but thanks to this hospital, I will always be in debt for everything that’s been done for me. I’m grateful for everybody here.”
Taylor said he looked to the Soldiers within the WTB for inspiration and he took full advantage of all the programs the WTB offered during his four-year recovery. He also talked about how a Vietnam veteran with similar injuries to his inspired him. “I found it so inspirational that he had the same injuries as me.”
That Vietnam veteran gave him this advice, “You were a great Soldier and you will always be a great civilian, no matter what you do … you can’t stop, you got to keep going … you are always a leader.”
Taylor took that advice to heart, and he continues to mentor Soldiers and give back to the community.
“No matter what I do, I will never be able to emulate what you did,” he told the veterans in the audience. “Your sacrifice is something that I live with every day and I hope to model every day as a veteran.”
He also encouraged Soldiers and veterans of his generation to set the standard for the future.
“By watching these guys and using their inspiration to lead, hopefully we can provide the community the knowledge and the information they need to understand our veterans,” Taylor concluded.
BAMC Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Oates thanked Taylor and all the people who participated in the ceremony and the sponsors who provided lunch for the event.
“Veterans have paved the way for us since the Continental Army,” Oates said. “Veterans have been and continue to be the bridge builders for those who come after them.
“I stand before you for as one command sergeant major from Brooke Army Medical Center, but I am most proud to stand for the millions of those who have donned the uniform to support and defend the constitution of these United States of America,” Oates said. “I give them all the honor and all respect, but most importantly I give you all a salute.”
The ceremony included entertainment from the 323rd Army Band, Sam Houston High School Marching Band, Thomas Jefferson High School Crimson Brigade Drill Team, Steve Griggs Band and Candace Bellamy Music. The BAMC commander and command sergeant major also dedicated a tree as a tribute to all veterans.
“I thought the Veterans Day ceremony was very well done,” said Retired Master Sgt. Bob Dickerson, Vietnam veteran and Bronze Star recipient. “As a Vietnam veteran I feel very proud to have been a part of it. I’m thankful to all of the staff at Brooke Army Medical Center who took the time to recognize us for our service.”