Weaverville – What are we thanking veterans for?” was a question the guest speaker at the 2021 Weaverville Veterans’ Day event asked those gathered at the occasion.
The event to honor servicemen and women began with music from the North Buncombe Chamber Choir, followed by the presentation of colors by the North Buncombe Junior ROTC cadets. As the cadets presented the colors, the choir sang the National Anthem.
After which, Rev. Louis Grant of Little Mount Zion Baptist Church in Weaverville gave a lively invocation thanking God for Veterans’ Day and for the chance to honor God and country. Weaverville Vice Mayor Doug Jackson then welcomed the 75 to 100 in attendance at the new Community Center at Dottie Sherrill Knoll.
Next, the NB Chamber Choir sang “America The Beautiful,” to which they received a round of applause. Jackson pointed out that this was the first time the annual event was held in the new community center. He then introduced the main speaker of the function, Major General Rick Devereaux (Ret.).
After receiving warm applause, Devereaux opened. After some technical microphone problems, he thanked the weather god for showing Weaverville they needed the indoor facility. He then went into what the general referred to as “unconventional remarks about Veterans Day” for the occasion. He also jokingly told Rev. Grant that he wanted to go to his church.
“I’m so proud of Weaverville for making the point to celebrate Veterans Day. To remember Memorial Day, the 911 Observance you’ve guys got…It’s great to see that spirit of patriotism,” said Devereaux.
He spoke about how special the day was and about a time during the Vietnam War when service to one’s country was not always respected. He also pointed out that the day was not about honoring those who had died in service to their country like Memorial Day, or honoring the flag like on Flag Day. “It’s the day we honor veterans.” He then went into the history of Veterans Day and how it evolved from Armistice Day.
Thanking Our Veterans
He thereupon went into his “unconventional remarks about Veterans’ Day…I want to challenge us to think a little bit deeper about this day and what it means to many veterans.” He had two main points that he’d like the group to “ponder for a moment.”
“Why do we thank veterans when we say, ‘thank you for your service’? What exactly are we thanking veterans for?” He followed that question up with, “How best do we thank veterans besides saying ‘thank you for your service’?”
Defending the Constitution
He then proceeded to say that veterans, except for a few exceptions, got a lot more out of the service than what they gave. He said the rewards and benefits outweighed the hardships. About 10 minutes into his address, a loud crash interrupted his oration, bringing the general to a halt. It turned out a member of the color guard had passed out, crashing into a chair before hitting the floor. The cadet was helped out of the room and Devereaux continued his address.
He then said the military does not pledge allegiance to the flag while in active duty but takes an oath to defend the Constitution from “all enemies, whether they be hostile nation-states, terrorist groups or even dangerous domestic insurgent groups like those who attacked our Capitol on January 6. Let’s make no mistake about that. That oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, extends to events like that.”
Devereaux paused and received a round of applause. He also reached back into history and used the Civil War as another example of defending the Constitution.
If we say thank you to our veterans for defending the Constitution, “how best do we say thank you?” Devereaux asked the crowd. “My opinion is just by being good citizens.” He said being a good citizen included voting, reading the newspaper, wearing masks, getting vaccinated. “Be the kind of citizen that is worthy of defending.”
After he finished, Weaverville Police Department offered a 21-gun salute on the lawn outside the community center, followed by Taps presented by the Weaverville Fire Department and “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes by Weaverville resident Howard Dusenbery. Rev. Grant closed with a benediction and the group was dismissed.