JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Brooke Army Medical Center honored the nation’s “unbroken chain of patriotism” during a Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 1.
“Today we celebrate and honor our nation’s veterans for their devotion, sense of duty, love of country and sacrifice on behalf of all Americans,” said BAMC Commanding General Brig. Gen. Wendy Harter.
“Representing less than one percent of Americans who served in our Armed Forces, you have no doubt sacrificed much in your years of service; whether it was missing the birth of a child, their first words, or even their graduation: you still answered our nation’s call,” Harter continued. “We stand as a free nation because of your service and sacrifice.”
Harter also thanked family members for their support and sacrifice alongside their military loved ones.
“Thank you for being the anchor, the foundation and the support they needed to remain vigilant and in the fight,” she said.
The ceremony’s guest speaker, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, praised veterans, past and present, for sustaining an “unbroken chain of patriotism.”
“Every time our country has come under attack, it’s the men and women like those in this room and around the nation who have come to her defense,” said Ayala, who serves as director, Office of Military and Veterans Affairs for San Antonio.
Ayala illustrated his point by spotlighting a veteran who has been hailed as a hero for his response to two separate acts of terror.
On Oct. 23, 1983, then-Marine Cpl. John Chipura was supporting a peacekeeping mission in Beirut, Lebanon. Early that morning, he was on his way to report for duty when he ran into a friend on his way to the Marine barracks.
Minutes later, a suicide bomber drove a truck packed with explosives into the barracks, killing 220 Marines, 18 Sailors and three Soldiers. It was the largest loss of life in a single day for the Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
The young Marine Chipura was talking to was instantly killed. “And what did John Chipura do? What do all of you do or would have done? He ran to the sound of the guns,” Ayala said.
For two days, Chipura worked in the rubble, aiding in recovery efforts. After his active duty service was completed, Chipura still desired to serve and became a New York City police officer, Ayala said. About a decade into his police career, Chipura followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the city’s fire department.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Again, Chipura did the unthinkable; he ran toward danger, Ayala said. He and five other firefighters entered the tower and were never seen again.
“Throughout my 36-year career, I’ve run into a lot of John Chipuras over the years. We all have that inside of us,” Ayala said. “Each time our freedoms have come under assault, it’s the men and women, our veterans, who have responded with resolve.”
The ceremony also featured the Wagner High School Junior ROTC Color Guard and a World War II-era musical performance by members of Performing Arts San Antonio.