The sun shined bright onto the Veterans Memorial Monument, casting a long shadow onto the ground at Auburn’s Veterans Day Ceremony Monday morning. Community members and leaders gathered at the memorial to celebrate veterans in the community and throughout the country.
For City Council member Kelley Griswold, Veteran’s Day is about recognizing and thanking all service members past and present.
“To me, Veterans Day is a recognition of the service of all of those who served both in combat and otherwise,” Griswold said. “It takes a complete team to get the tip of the spear where it needs to be.”
Griswold retired from the Army in 2003 as a colonel after 26 years in the service. He was stationed throughout the country as an artilleryman.
He was trained on various weapons systems and continually tested and trained others on them during a large part of his service at various U.S. bases.
“I certainly have a tremendous amount of support for those that have been in this long war,” Griswold said.
It’s important for Griswold to shake every hand and give every veteran a nod of appreciation because every veteran, regardless of the day or time of year, deserves it, Griswold said.
“Every bit of service they contributed all went toward the same overall purpose,” Griswold said.
Auburn, both the City and University, do a great job at this, said Student Veteran Association President and Alabama National Guard Staff Sgt. Benjamin Barrontine.
Both regularly give out awards to highlight service members or host events to honor service members, such as the annual military appreciation football game and the Mayor’s Memorial Day breakfast.
“My time in Auburn the last year, every other day is for us,” Barrontine said. “They highlight us all the time.”
One way to thank veterans outside of these types of events is to treat them like any other person, Barrontine said.
There is a misconception many people hold about veterans, Barrontine said. Often times people think that because they served there is something different or off about them.
It’s no different than a non-service member going through something. Everyone is human and is working through various things, Barrontine said.
“We’re not broken,” Barrontine said. “I think a lot of people think that when veterans come back from war we’re broken and we need to be fixed. Or that we’re broken and you need to be scared of us because you don’t want to hurt our feelings.”
Veterans are often the biggest supporters of other veterans. Many get involved with the Veterans Resource Center and the Student Veterans Association to continue to support the military and service members.
One upcoming way to get involved is the Iron Ruck March, where veterans from the University of Alabama, Auburn University and everywhere in between will join together to carry supply packs from Tuscaloosa to Auburn to honor and raise awareness about veteran suicide. Those supplies will then be donated to veteran shelters across the country.
They do this and many other things through the Veterans Resource Center to raise awareness, but also to connect veterans to other former service members because, Barrontine said, all service members are important.
“We’re all one big family, one big community,” Barrontine said.
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