Retired Navy Captain celebrates veterans

Published 11:25 am Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What is a Veteran?

A “Veteran – whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America”, for an amount of “up to and including his life”.

– Unknown

CONWAY – Veteran’s Day ceremonies were held here in this Northampton County hamlet Monday at Veteran’s Park.

It was a sparse ceremony, but what it represented to those present speaks volumes of the gratitude one town has for those who serve in uniform to preserve freedom around the world in the name of the Red-White-and-Blue.

“We spent a lot of time and heartfelt money to build this Veteran’s Park, and for good reason,” said town mayor Brian E. Bolton. “Today we’re here to honor our veterans: those that are serving now, those that have served, and those that have gone on.”

After prayer, the singing of the National Anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance, Bolton introduced the speaker for the occasion: former Conway Mayor, Councilman and retired Navy Captain James A. “Jimmy” Woodard.

Woodard is currently the Administrative Officer for the North Carolina State Veterans Nursing Home Program; responsible for the planning, direction, and management of the statewide veterans’ nursing home program. The state’s veterans’ nursing homes are located at four sites: adjacent to the VA Medical Center in Fayetteville, on the W.G. Hefner Medical Center campus in Salisbury, on Hull Road in Kinston, and at Black Mountain.

“When I first came to Conway Jimmy was a board member and later my mayor,” said Bolton. “A lot of my thoughts and things around being a mayor come from watching Jimmy and seeing how he handled things in the town.”

Woodard and his wife, Phyllis, are both natives of Conway; and while he was dressed in full naval officer regalia, he began by thanking the crowd of “neighbors and friends” who came out for the ceremony.

“Veterans Day brings us all together throughout this country, state, and places like Conway,” Woodard began. “Not to glorify war or great victories, but honor those men and women who have served in the Armed Forces.”

Woodard prefaced his remarks with a history of why the day is celebrated from marking the end of World War I thru Armistice Day to Veterans Day being named an official holiday in 1954.  Then Woodard named off the global conflicts in which Americans have sacrificed from Europe and Asia, to the Middle East.

“More than 1.5 million veterans have served in combat theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are grateful for their service,” he remarked. “And today just as we commemorate this day with their fathers, their mothers, their grandfathers and grandmothers, we also praise our newest citizen-soldier and wish him Godspeed on their homeward journey.

“Our greatest obligation as a nation to the men and women who served in uniform is to never allow ourselves to belittle or forget the contributions and their sacrifices,” he added.

“We celebrate humble men and women who understand the call of duty, the meaning of honor, and the values of this nation because they served not for glory or fame, they served to preserve our way of life,” he concluded.

“May God bless the men and women in uniform serving throughout this world, may God bless our veterans, and may God bless the United States of America.”

At the conclusion of his remarks, Capt. Woodard presented a US flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington to Conway native, 88-year-old Linwood Earl Woodard, a World War II veteran of the Battle of the Bulge.

The ceremony concluded with the laying of a wreath at the brick memorial by veterans LaVerne Howell and Shirley Woodard.

Conway Town Commissioner Lance Jenkins gave the benediction just before a medley of patriotic Armed Forced music began to play.

“Insuring that the freedom we celebrate here today is still something we can cherish and hold for those who have given to our country and have gone as well as those who are still with us today,” Jenkins said.