Veterans Day Salute!

Published 5:35 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

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AHOSKIE – “We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.”

That short sentence, as stated by Chad M. Stephens here Saturday morning, accurately sums up why Americans gather on Nov. 11 to celebrate Veterans Day. It’s a day set aside to remember every man and woman who has taken up arms to defend and protect this country and our values.

Stephens, a now retired Army National Guard Sergeant who is the Veterans Service Officer in Hertford and Gates counties, was the featured speaker on Saturday morning at the Veterans Day ceremony hosted by American Legion Post 102 at Ahoskie No Man’s Land Park.

Stephens spoke of “risk, sacrifice, duty, and honor” when it comes to the brave men and women who have worn, or still wear, a uniform representing any of our nation’s Armed Forces. He is fully aware of those four words.

Retired Army Sergeant Chad M. Stephens, who was wounded in combat in Iraq, served as the featured speaker at the Veterans Day event in Ahoskie. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Stephens was called into battle in February of 2004, serving his country in Iraq as part of the global war on terrorism. Four months later his platoon was ambushed three times in one 24-hour period. Those attacks claimed his commander and one gunner. As they were attempting to evacuate those injured, his unit came under attack again, this time wounding seven of his comrades. In the third ambush, Stephens’ vehicle was blown-up, critically wounding his gunner and himself.

“Today, in a world tormented by tensions and conflicts, we meet in a quiet commemoration of an historic day. In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible,” Stephens said.

“We honor every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, Coastguardsman, reservists and National Guardsmen who have gave some of their best years of their lives to the service of the United States, and stood ready to give life itself, on our behalf,” he added.

Stephens stressed that America remains the strongest and the greatest nation in the world because our military veterans and the service men and women who still serve today.

“America still stands tall. It is still a free nation because of them. As we celebrate this day, let us not forget every service member that lost their lives for this great nation,” he said, calling out the names of his Captain Christopher Cash, and 19-year-old Specialist Daniel A. Desens who died in his arms on June 24, 2004.

He remembered his gunner, Sgt. Thomas Rivera who was critically wounded that day, but yet he returned to battle after recovering from his wounds.

Stephens also encouraged his audience to hold a special place in their hearts for thousands of veterans that came home wounded and with missing limbs, or suffering from PTSD, diseases, anxiety and depression.

“Let us also not forget the families that are affected by the horrors of war on their veterans. Let us say, on this day, Veterans Day, that families of these Veterans are celebrated also,” he said.

“While we celebrate this day as a holiday, for many veterans it is another day of memories that drive them to live each day the best they possibly can,” Stephens continued. “For our troops, it is another day in harms way. For families, it is another day to feel the absence of a love one, and the concern for their safety. For our wounded warriors, it’s another day of slow recovery, another day when grief remains fresh.”

Saturday’s Veterans Day observance in Ahoskie included a 10 a.m. parade along Main Street. The event was staged by American Legion Post 102 who also hosted an 11 a.m. ceremony at No Man’s Land Park. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

As a Service Officer for the North Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs. Stephens meets one-on-one with those men and women. He listens as they describe their struggles to return to a normal world after having deeply life-challenging experiences.

“I will do my best to help them. Sometimes that involves doctors, hospitals, and medications, but listening is the key,” he said.

“To all our veterans here today, and to veterans across America, whether you served on the beaches of Europe, the jungles of Asia, the deserts of the Middle East; whether you served here at home or overseas, in wartime or in peace; whether you served proudly in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, National Guard or Reserves, you are part of an unbroken chain of patriots who have served this country with honor through the life of our nation. To all those who have given their service, thank you and happy Veterans Day. Thank you for your courage and dedication,” Stephens concluded.

Post 102 Commander Joe Perfetto presided over the Veterans Day ceremony. Post Chaplain Roger Kiker offered prayer. The Hertford County High School JROTC posted the colors.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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