The number of veterans returning home from war and looking to settle into a state of normalcy is increasing by the year, and the numbers are only going to get higher as contingency plans for troop withdrawal in the Middle East continue to take shape.
Major General Reuben Jones, a West Point native and soon to be retired Army veteran told a large crowd at the city’s Veteran’s Day Program on Friday that small communities were key to supporting these returning veterans.
“It takes a profound strength to put on this uniform and serve our country,” Jones said. “It takes a lot for a person to say “I’ll go, send me.”
In a three-point message to veterans and civilians alike, Jones said it is going to take teamwork to provide the necessary support for veterans in the 21st Century.
“We cannot do it alone,” he said. “We have to rally for a our veterans and their families.”
Jones cited the GI Bill which was passed after World War II. This bill allowed for returning soldiers to have the resources to go to college, become home owners, start small businesses etc.
“The GI Bill has given us 14 Nobel Prizes, two dozen Pulitzer Prize winners, three Supreme Court Justices and two Presidents,” Jones said.
Jones said that the support veterans need cannot be done by a single person, a single town or just the government. It takes everyone coming together for these men and women who served our nation.
Jones says that his brief visit to West Point this week has him feeling very positive about the state of veterans’ affairs in this community.
“I am totally encouraged by the energy, the wholesomeness and the ability to want to share with your fellow man,” Jones said. “I could not have paid for this. This town is still thriving afar all of these years, and the people here have profited from being here.”
Jones’ father, Louis Jones Sr. was in the front row at the event. Jones Sr. is a former school teacher here in West Point and taught at North Side High School.
Jones said that he would be remised if he did not mention the veterans of former wars that are still around, like those who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm.
“If you don’t take the time to listen to their stories, their rich histories about the service to their country and community, you have missed the truth,” Jones said. “It is absolutely amazing the jewels you have in this community.”
After Jones’ address, he was given the Patriotism Award by the city and he was given the Key to the City by Randy Jones and Mayor Scott Ross.
Dwight Dyess, retired Colonel and current Civilian Aid to the Secretary of the Army honored those of the 223rd Engineer Battalion who returned home a few weeks ago by naming those men and women the Veterans of the Year.
Sgt. First Class William Head and Sgt. Crystal Lane accepted on behalf of their fellow soldiers.