Happy Veterans Day 2020!

I write this message in the week following our election, and what a week America has had.

As I reflect on Veterans Day, which was originally known as Armistice Day and commemorates the end of World War I hostilities on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, I remember my own experience with presidential transitions during my 26 years in uniform.

When I enlisted in the Navy in 1984, Ronald Reagan was president. I served under Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In every situation, I knew the changing of the guard would bring in new civilian leadership, as the secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy are political appointments. However, our military leadership and infrastructure would remain intact with a focus on the protection of every American and their interests throughout the world.

I have always felt a special obligation to help my fellow veterans. I am extremely proud of the work JFS has done with veterans at MassBay Community College. MassBay has a large number of students who are accessing higher education through the GI bill, and our relationship with the college in other areas of work has allowed us to assist veterans in the areas of family assistance and job placement. My greatest claim to fame for the MassBay veterans was in encouraging one of our mutual donors to invest in an elevator so that injured and disabled veterans could access their student study center, known as the “pit.” It was previously accessible only by a spiral staircase.

I am also excited about the work The Greater Boston Veterans Collaborative (GBVC) is doing with veterans. The GBVC is a network of organizations that assist veterans and their families. It’s made up of government services, nonprofits such as JFS and private organizations. If you know of a veteran in need, forward them this link; whatever it takes to help these individuals who served our country.

Unfortunately, this year we will not have parades where the young of our community can see veterans of all ages marching, waving and saying hello. Veterans are literally a dying breed. When I joined the Navy in 1984, the veteran population in the United States was 15%; today it is 6%. Please thank the veterans you know. I have been asked many times about the etiquette of asking a veteran about their service experience. I still think this Veterans Affairs article is the best resource, and I frequently send it to those who ask.

Finally, I’m thrilled to report some exciting news from my alma mater, the United States Naval Academy. Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber of Lake Forest, Illinois, will command the Brigade of Midshipmen. Barber will be the academy’s first Black female to do so. She is a mechanical engineering major, a member of the Navy women’s varsity track and field team and has plans to commission into the Marine Corps. As we say in the Navy, “BRAVO ZULU.” Well done!

P.S. This video is a touching tribute to veterans who were once refugees. It’s amazingly touching and confirms America’s role as a beacon of hope.

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