A few hundred braved the cold air during Saturday afternoon’s Veterans Day event, “Saluting Chesterfield County Veterans of all U.S. Wars,” sponsored by the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia held on the lawn of the Historic 1917 Courthouse.
A march of veterans, with the walkway lined by soldiers the 266th Quartermaster Battalion from Fort Lee in salute, was led by Master Sgt. John J. Nichols, WWII Buffalo Soldier and member of the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Association. The military salute was accompanied by the Civil Air Patrol, USAF Auxiliary Bravo Company, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade Fort Lee, and Thomas Dale High School band.
U.S. Air Force Veteran William Daniels gave the welcoming and opening remarks. Platform guests included Herbert G. Turner, Chester Masonic Lodge No. 94; Dorothy Jaeckle, chair of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors; U. S. Rep. Donald McEachin, Ruth Eileen Osmolski, Gold Star Mother; U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, Leslie Haley, vice-chair of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors; U. S. Army Veteran Chuck Anolino; U.S. Army Veteran, 2015 National Ruritan president Bobby Burtont; and guest speaker, Navy Cmdr. Heather H. Quilenderino, operations officer from Fleet Weather Center Norfolk.
Also participating in the ceremony were the American Heritage Girls Troop Va. 1024, the L.C. Bird High School Chorus, and Bugles Across America state director John Blair playing Taps. Several exhibits were also available for attendees to visit including the county museum and historic jail.
Special thanks were given to the Matoaca Women’s Club and Ruritans of Zone 4 for refreshments, the Virginia Fallen Heroes Banner Project and Carla Waldron for a wreath, American Legion Post No. 186 for U.S. flags at the Memorial Wall, Alvora Reuss for flag pins, and members of antique auto clubs.
McEachin and Brat spoke about the numbers of veterans in the state and what is available for them in the way of education and training, but also how health needs still needed to be addressed.
“One in every 10 citizens is a veteran in the Commonweath,” said McEachin. “I hope we do our part in taking care of our veterans.”
Brat gave specific numbers, 700,000 veterans in the state and 57,000 in his 7th district.
“They are the best and the brightest in this county,” he said. “Because they love their country…[their service, their ultimate sacrifice] it is not for money or fame but because they love their country.”
He also talked about how the politicians need to do a better job with the health program. He opened the door to any veteran in his district who needs help that it can start at his office. “We start a case and we don’t quit until we are done. Veterans are No. 1.”
Quilenderino’s resume has quite a list of accomplishments, the Commander Mary Seas Award in 2016. She earned her Ph.D. in meteorology in 2012. Quilenderino said even though she came from a family of service, with relatives serving in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, they did not share their stories. “I did not understand the meaning of service until my father suggested joining the Naval ROTC,” she said. “It changed my outlook on the world. The Navy gives you a family, friends, a purpose, not just a career.”
Once commissioned, she said, she had a new and very deep comprehension of what it meant to serve.
Quilenderiono shared her stories of leadership and motivating her fellow servicemen and servicewomen. She also talked about the importance of employers hiring veterans and the leadership they bring to the job.
She encouraged young people to seek out a veteran as a mentor. “They will have stories of friendship, teamwork, and triumphs to share with you.”