Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ron Gough and Air Mobility Command Museum chaplain John Groth both evoked the adage that veterans were people who had written a blank check made out to the United States of America during the Air Mobility Command Museum's inaugural Veterans Day Celebration.
"A veteran is someone who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to an including his her life," said Gough, the Air Mobility Command Museum's guest speaker. "That is a powerful sentence.
"From our fight for independence in 1776 through the war on terror today, our nation's sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard men have in fact written a blank check payable to the United States of America, up to an including their own lives," Gough said. "We are a country who honors our war dead on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day we honor those who have served."
During his opening remarks, Groth thanked God for veterans who had made this outstanding commitment to America.
"Father, we are grateful for the privilege to be here today to celebrate the men and women who served, serve and will serve this great nation that you have blessed us with, that you have blessed the world with," Groth said.
Gough, who spent much of his military career at Dover Air Force Base, was lauded by museum officials for creating the "Hallway of Heroes" at the Air Mobility Command Museum as the result of extensive research into the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor.
However, Gough said he did not join the military 44 years ago because he wanted to become a veteran. He joined the U.S. Air Force because he was facing the draft in 1968 and decided to go ahead and join.
He went on to serve in the Air Force, including a tour in Southeast Asia. Then, he married and had a family and started a career. Since then, he had grown to appreciate what it really means to be a veteran, he said.
"As a veteran, I look forward to this day every year. I really do, versus when I first entered the military and never thought about being a veteran," Gough said. "On this day, I stand a little bit taller when I see a flag go by. I hold my hand a little bit tighter to my chest when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited.
"When our national anthem is played I render the crispest salute. My right hand is raised sharp with my hand touching my eyebrow as all of us here have been trained to do, steady as a rock, saluting my flag. I have never been more proud to be a veteran. All veterans are fellow brothers and sisters. … I salute you."
Page 2 of 2 - Among the crowd attending the Veterans Day ceremony at Air Mobility Command were Melanie Burgoyne, of Smyrna, and her children, Stefan, Drew, Annika and Ava. The children had off from the Smyrna School District, similar to the rest of the schools in the state.
"We come here maybe once a year or so," she said. "Our family has a long history in the military. We come here to honor them and all of those who served."
Air Mobility Command Museum Board of Directors member Ed Perkowski was happy with the crowd of more than 200 that came for the inaugural Veterans Day celebration at the museum on the grounds of the Dover Air Force Base. Perkowski was the event's chairman.
"With the confusion between yesterday being Veterans Day and today I was pleased with the crowd," he said. "Next year, I expect us to do something a little bit bigger and a little bit better. It's Veterans Day; it's a happy day."
As part the celebration, the Milford Community Band entertained the crowd by performing American classics, such as "The Star Spangled Banner" and several patriotic marches.