Saturday was Military Appreciation Day in Loudoun County and for the fourth consecutive year representatives of veterans’ support organizations gathered at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn to ensure service members and their families were well informed about resources that are available to them.
Organized by the Leonard W. Kidd Memorial American Legion Post 2001 in Ashburn, the event featured representatives from the Veterans Administration who were on hand to provide assistance on specific cases and a host of volunteer groups that provide a wide range of support to vets.
The formal program in the school’s auditorium featured remarks by County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) and Lester L. Lyles, a retired U.S. Air Force four-star general, as well as performances by the John Champe High School String Band and the Hillside Elementary Choir.
Lyles, who has served several corporate boards since his retirement in 2003, encouraged companies to make efforts to help veterans. Today, he is chairman of USAA.
“Look for ways that you can do things together to support the needs of the military families,” Lyles said. “It could be any number of things that you can do, but look for ways and seek ways that you can support them.”
He highlighted the insurance company’s efforts to aid homeless veterans in San Antonio, TX, where it is headquartered.
“Anyone who wanted to be helped, we helped them. We got them off the streets. We got them homes. We got them jobs, many with USAA,” Lyles said.
The general also said it was important for veterans and military families to talk with their friends and neighbors who may not understand military life.
“Tell your story,” he said. “It is important for people to really understand what it is like to serve in the military, to be a military family member or to be a military vet. One of the ways to have that happen is for you, vets and the military members, to tell your story. Don’t be shy about explaining all the challenges but also the opportunities as a result of you having served.”
In her remarks, Randall did that, sharing stories of growing up as the daughter of a master sergeant who served three combat tours. Those included having to meet the daily test of making a quarter bounce off the freshly made bed before school, not being “authorized” to have a second dessert at the dinner table, and having to stop a sprint across the post to get care for her sister’s appendicitis until the daily flag retirement ceremony ended.
She said military families rely heavily on resilience and a good sense of humor. That was true in her family as they dealt with her father’s alcoholism and PTSD.
“There were times when the house was very turbulent,” she said. “At the time, nobody believed in the word trauma.” Instead families tried to “push through” without the services that are available now, she said.
Those experiences led to her career in mental health therapy.
“I watched so many men and women come back from combat and not have the support or the understanding they needed,” Randall said. “I would say that we are so much farther along today than we used to be.”
Before reading the Board of Supervisors’ formal resolution proclaiming Oct. 28 as Military Appreciation Day, Buona also emphasized the need to support military families.
“It is the families that sacrifice. It is the families that endure absences. It is the families that endure moving and moving and moving,” Buona said.
Saturday’s program also was attended by U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10th), Del. Tag Greason (R-34), county supervisors Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run), Susanne Volpe (R-Algonkian), Koran Saines (D-Sterling) and Leesburg Town Coucilman Ron Campbell, along with two World War II veterans.