Powerful rendition of National Anthem, veteran support, embedded in Fort Meade Veterans Day ceremony
Military service members, officials and members of the public both in person and online were treated to a powerful performance of the Star Spangled Banner by Staff Sergeant Christian Teague (see below) , who is a member of the Army Field Band. It took place during Thursday afternoon's ceremony to recognize veterans at Fort G. Meade, a day before the federal holiday.
Teague was a professional singer in the Dallas Opera for a number of years, before he enlisted in the Army. He said he trained long and hard to be a singer just like he does in the Army.
"I've always had a special place in my heart with just giving back and acknowledging the veterans--not only my community, but those past and present. It's always a privilege to perform the national anthem, especially for leadership and veterans. It's quite an honor."
Although he wears a uniform now, Teague indicated life in the service is the right fit for him.
"I plan to stay doing what I'm doing with the Army Field Band until they kick me out," he said.
The ceremony was opened with prayers led by Chaplain Harry Byrd, a Lieutenant Colonel. who asked God for support of American veterans.
The Anne Arundel County executive, Steuart Pittman, spoke briefly thanking the many area veterans. Over 60,000 county residents are veterans according to the county's veterans affairs commission.
"Please listen to, learn from, and support all our veterans," Pittman said. "They are truly the strongest thread in the fabric of our community. They move our community forward."
Denise Miller, a representative of Maryland's Department of Veterans Affairs, announced a proclamation from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, which recognized United States veterans as the "True protectors of liberty and freedom of our nation," before declaring November 11 Veterans Day in Maryland.
The key-note speaker of the ceremony was Colonel Beverly Maliner (Retired), who is also a doctor, and left active duty two years ago. She said she had found some aspects of civilian life challenging to adjust to as a veteran.
"It was not so straightforward to meet my need to serve," she said. "I felt myself intermittently feeling unworthy and (had) to actively contemplate a question: How do you give service after 38 years of soldiering full-time?
"My answer, is to carry forward our values, as described in our oaths...in this phase of my life,"
She recognized her fellow veterans as "people of honor and value," and told them "Service is something we need to be and to do,"
One of the soldiers she was speaking to in the audience is soon to retired himself. Colonel Jimmie Tolvert is Deputy Commander of Nursing at the Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center on base. He said the Army is helping him quite a bit with his upcoming transition to civilian life.
"The Army is better preparing people," he said. "It's better than when my Dad was in the service. The programs they have me in now with jobs and job fairs, setting up your own business--they do it right."
Sergeant 1st Class Justin Keeling, who also serves at Kimbrough, said that since joining the Army, moving every few years is challenging, but that the rewards are "huge." He expects his transition out of the Army some place down the road, may also be challenging.
"It'll be another large transition--getting used to not always going, going, going," he said. "To actually take some time for me and my family."
When Maliner's presentation ended, the Commander of Fort Meade, Colonel Christopher Nyland, came on stage to thank her. He also gave her a small token of appreciation--a challenge coin.
The coins may be a humble token, but their significance is larger.
"We present these for excellence," he said.
Nyland also thanked America's veterans, saying they set a good example for our communities, but that some were in real need themselves. He cited the hard year all Americans have experienced from the pandemic, and political and social upheaval. But he made time to recognize that some vets were carrying an extra heavy burden.
"I'm super proud of the work of the entire Fort Meade community," he said. "From my perspective it's simply about reaching out and having a conversation and talking to the veterans--understanding why they served, and understanding what they sacrificed."
He also recognized the major changes and challenges some vets are going through with the end of the war in Afghanistan.
"The first time I deployed to Afghanistan was in 2002," he said. "Oftentimes what I think people struggle with is that they have lost friends, family, teammates in that conflict, and they wonder was it worth it--did they make a difference? My message to them is absolutely.
"You know what didn't happen over the past 20 years? There was no terrorist attack. We disrupted that sanctuary for international terrorism. It's very hard to measure success in things that didn't happen, but that's exactly what I think our veterans need to keep in mind when they think about their efforts."
Colonel Nyland reminded listeners that some veterans could really be struggling and that if vets they knew didn't have a support team to consider inviting them to their own support network.
Maliner also highlighted that anyone with a CAC card has free access to free health and fitness coaching from Fort Meade's Army Wellness Center. And also that the base's Education and Resiliency Center is designed to be a place where the entire community "can build identity and a sense of belonging."
Also attending the ceremony were
Maryland State Delegate Mike Rogers, DIstrict 32
Adam Spangler, Congressman Anthony Brown's office