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Veterans Day 2012- Personal Stories from AFGE Officers and Members

The American Federation of Government Employees honors the service of America’s veterans. This Veterans Day we’re sharing a message from AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., and the reflections of AFGE activists and  leaders who served in our armed forces. Veterans Day was also discussed on AFGE’s “Inside Government” Radio Show. Click here to listen to the program.

When I think of veterans, many images come to mind.

The teenager who enlists in the military as soon as he graduates high school, hungry to make a difference in the world.

The young mother who leaves her children at home while she pilots fighter jets over the Afghanistan desert.

The soldiers who serve to ensure our freedom and protection.

As a former VA nurse, I witnessed every day the challenges of the men and women who return home battered, bruised or worse. Often these injuries are clear to see, while other times the scars are on the inside.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 200,000 federal employees dedicate their careers to meeting the needs of our veterans.

Nurses and doctors provide medical care to veterans at VA hospitals and clinics. Claims representatives guarantee veterans get the benefits they are owned – accurately and on time. Cemetery workers ensure veterans are provided a proper resting place when their time on Earth is done.

Many of these VA workers are veterans themselves.

I also think about federal workers and the members we represent.

Federal employees inspect the ships and maintain the tanks that are sent into battle. We manufacture the artillery and weapons our military members depend on. We ensure that supplies and equipment make it to soldiers in the field. And we work in the commissaries, day care centers and other facilities that soldiers, veterans and their families rely on.

The federal government is the largest employer of veterans in the country. One in four federal employees is a military veteran. And tens of thousands of our own union members are veterans.

At the Department of Defense, veterans and other federal employees work right alongside men and women in uniform.

These dedicated federal employees know firsthand the sacrifice that our military men and women make for this country. And they understand the sacred trust that our government holds for our nation’s veterans and their families.

So on this Veterans Day, I salute the brave men and women who have served our country. Long after their military service is over, they continue to serve as a shining example of America at its best. Thank you, and God bless our veterans.

AFGE National President J. David Cox


I served in the United States Navy during the time of the Vietnam War and I joined because I wanted to serve my country. Times were hard during that period but military service certainly gave me a sense of patriotic pride. I’m proud that our country has such a holiday to honor our veterans and shows appreciation to our service members and their families. The Department of Veterans Affairs is doing extraordinary work to meet the needs of our nation’s heroes and the employees work extremely hard to provide the care that veterans deserve.

AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr.


To me Veterans Day is an opportunity to thank all the veterans who have sacrificed for my freedoms.  When I joined the Navy in 1975 I did it because I wanted to give back to the Nation and pay a debt to those who served before me.

AFGE District 6 National Vice President Arnold Scott


I was raised with a deep appreciation for patriotism, loyalty and family. My dad was in the United States Coast Guard for 26 years. He was such a true example of what character is, and why all Americans should appreciate all the liberties we enjoy today.

I served in the United States Army. My sense of pride and total admiration for being able to serve my country can’t fully be explained. Those that have served know, it is something that brings so much satisfaction from within, it can’t be explained. But, one thing is for sure, being a proud veteran, I know that all of my friends that served, would be the first to volunteer if need be.

This is why I am so proud to be a Veteran!

AFGE District 9 National Vice President Mike Kelly


I Served in the Air Force and Air National Guard from 1981-1994 as an integrated avionics mechanic repairing navigational computers on RF-4C). I was deployed during the Cold War to Norway and supported the Klaxon border mission prior to he Germany re-unification.  Among others, I received the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal and Outstanding Unit Medals.  My younger brother remains active duty in the Air Force and we  were raised by a single mom who served more 20 years in the Air Force.

AFGE District 11 National Vice President Gerald Swanke


My father served in the U.S. Navy, my brother served in the U.S. Air Force, my uncle served in the U.S. Marine Corp,  so it made perfect sense for me to serve in the U.S. Army.  Growing up in my neighborhood, about every other house had someone serving in the military.  I felt it was my duty to proudly serve in the military.  My most vivid recollection while I was in the Army was the day they pinned my Military Police badge onto my uniform.  Just three months prior, I was graduating from high school.  I felt proud of myself for accomplishing this feat so early in my life.  That stuck with me and I have been in the U.S. Border Patrol for more than 27 years. Law enforcement has been such a huge part of who I am today. It is not for everyone and anyone who wears a gun and badge will tell you that.

I have never had to utilize the Department of Veteran’s Affairs but I  know many veterans who depend on those VA facilities to take care of their medical issues.  The VA hospitals understand what our folks have gone through and can comfort their needs and give them the proper treatment the deserve; the treatment they earned while serving in the armed services.

AFGE District 12 National Vice President George McCubbin III


I am a veteran. For me, the question was never whether I was going to join the armed forces, instead the question was what branch of service and when I would join.

My father was in the Army Signal Corps during WWII, as well as a reservist in the Air Force during the 1950s.  After high school, I immediately went to work for the Social Security Administration.  I worked during the day and attended college at night.  Working and going to school was fine, but I soon decided to set my mark and move forward to begin my military service.

Military service was important to me because it represented an opportunity and the right of passage.  It was important for me as an African American male to offer my service, just as my father had done.  I demanded my right to first class citizenship in a segregated American society.

Joining the United States Marine Corps was the best decision of my life.

I am a veteran.

AFGE District 14 National Vice President Dwight Bowman


As a veteran I continue to proudly serve my country. I work for Homeland Security and I’ve been activated for 45 days to help out with the massive hurricane destruction from Sandy. I’m in tears to see how much suffering  Americans are experiencing from this storm, yet I see people working together from all agencies and background and set aside political differences. I want to thank the government for giving me these opportunities  to serve my country on the civilian side. I was lucky to serve in the U.S. Navy,  U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army.

Thank you,

TSO Tom Clary MHT, AFGE Local 2617


Veterans Day means showing my appreciation to all those who have served our great nation and to thank them.  I come from a family that has a strong military background. My dad served in the Army and is a retired vet, I have uncles who served in the Army and the Air Force and I continued my family’s tradition in serving in the Army.  Veterans, like me, gave our time to serve, protect and defend our nation and we have done so proudly.  We have went to places that would turn people’s stomach and have done things that most people will never dream of doing.  All of us service people are in one big family; the family that took an oath to protect our nation and our families and it is because of us that others sleep safe and sound at night.  I have this to say to our vets:

Thank you all and God Bless Each and Everyone of Us!  Walk Proud My Brothers And Sisters!

Dave Park


I am a disabled veteran. I gave freely to this county so I can enjoy the freedoms that the Constitution grants me. I protected that Constitution so everyone can enjoy those freedoms. I have brothers and sisters who are still defending those freedoms. Remember that we do not just go away once we leave the service, we do not disappear from the face of the earth. Many of us still serve in some capacity or another.

Eugene White
U. S. Navy retired
U. S. Air Force Civil Service


Each year, around Veterans Day I think of my buddies I served with in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. Of course I think of them more often than that, but Veterans Day coming around spurs me to think of them nearly every day.

I reflect back on when I was working at AFGE when the Vietnam Memorial was dedicated. It started out sunny and warm but a cold front passed through in the early afternoon and it was chilly and with a light rain.

I also think about the new veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. I am troubled by those who are wounded physically and mentally. I had troubles myself and was diagnosed a few years ago with PTSD. I often wonder how many will return from those wars and wind up like me — or worse.

I am troubled also about so many Americans viewing combat as some sort of sport, like football or basketball. I wish those who are so enthusiastic about invading other countries would pay a visit to their nearest VA hospital and ask to see some of the veterans who are there without limbs, paralyzed, blind and with other horrific wounds. Too many of us consider war as solely a contest to win. I think of my buddy in Charley Company, 3rd Recon, Tom Enwright, who had his arm blown out of his shoulder socket. When he left on the chopper his arm was dangling and he was bleeding severely. I think of Joe Winn from Delta Company, who was attacked while working the point on a daylight patrol going through a village.  I feel the need to share what Veterans Day honors, especially about combat veterans. I want everyone to truly appreciate what should be remembered each Veterans Day, and every day, especially when putting our troops in harm’s way is being considered.

Yes, Veterans Day makes me proud and sad.

Jim Jones
formerly of the AFGE L-1617 and
retired from the AFGE Field Services Department


Veterans Day coincides with Armistice Day and originally commemorated the signing of the armistice that ended WWI.  Inspired by the unity and sacrifice of the allies during WWI, Veterans Day now commemorates the service of all United States veterans.  This Veterans Day I hope everyone is reminded that the United States is the world’s best example of a diverse, cooperative and unified society largely because of the patriotic and selfless efforts of its service members.  Thank you to AFGE for recognizing this special holiday and for recognizing the military service of its veteran members.

Greg Kusel, AFGE Local 421
Army Veteran, Iraqi Freedom
AFGE member since 2009


I’ve been in the military for nearly 30 years, and a Transportation Security Officer at Portland International Airport in Oregon for 10 years. Within that time I’ve deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan with the Army Reserve. I do it because I love my country and my family.

Patrick O’Halloran


Veterans Day is a day that honors all who have served this great nation. I am honored that I could serve and I would do it all over again. My forefathers, who are African Americans, served this country from the Civil War to now, fought and died bravely for a nation that sometimes seem to not have loved them as they loved this great land we call America. They did what was right and I am honored and proud to be their son. My father always taught me to be proud of my heritage, always hold my head up high and do the right thing.

Leon Jones, AFGE Local 515


I was in the Air Force 1966 thru 1970 and I am proud of being able to serve such a great country.

Let Freedom Ring. God Bless America.
George Bradley


We took the oath; we wore the uniform.  Some of us performed noteworthy service; for others, our service was routine.

I received far more than I gave.  Education, a career, and above all, an understanding of what America is and what it represents.

Proud to have served my country.  Proud to have served my fellow employees with AFGE.

Al DiGennaro, AFGE Local 1626, retired


I’m a 14th generation military service member. One of my ancestors, Capt. John Alden, was a member of the original Bay Colony Militia. Every generation since my family has had military members. I served in the U.S.  Air Force from 1969 to 1978.  Afterward I served in DoD AIR Force as a civilian. This was my entry into AFGE.  I am currently the chief steward of Local 449 at RDU Arpt. For the past 10 yrs I helped in the fight to get AFGE representation at TSA. At TSA we are helping to keep the homeland safe for our troops overseas, and their families here at home. Over the past few years I have been proud to have processed hundreds of WW II vets from the ” Honor ” flights that passed thru Raleigh Arpt. So many  retired here because of Camp Lejune and Ft  Bragg. Not a week goes by without our shutting down a lane for Honor Guards, to meet flights with fallen comrades. So Veterans Day means so very much to me.

God Bless America and all who serve her; and those who wait at home.

Michael D Meier, AFGE TSA Local 449, Disabled Vet


As a veteran myself, this day means a lot, knowing that I willing served my country in any way possible and taking that same pride and putting it into my work at the VA Medical Center in Louisville, KY helping the other veterans before and after me. I might not have been in combat like most of the service members but I still did my part and took care of my children while serving my country. It is a way to show the pride that I have in what I have done for the country that I love the most. I think it is so sad and wrong that some have stooped so low as to picket the funerals of our fallen veterans. They sacrificed the ultimate sacrifice just so people can have that freedom of speech.

Dawn Candace VanDyke

Proud Navy Veteran


I believe that as Americans we live in one of the best societies in human history and very little is asked of most of us in return– pay our taxes, vote, and occasionally serve on a jury.  So little we give for all we get in return!

But some of us have a calling, a deeper need, to acknowledge the debt we owe those who insured the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, and pay it forward.  It’s not for everyone, not all can serve, not all need to serve.  But for some of us, it is our duty, and our honor, to serve in the armed forces.  Most of us serve four years, more or less, without ever seeing combat.  Some stay in longer and some pay the ultimate price.  But we all agreed to stand “Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.”

And they had a name for us.


Anthony Breaux, Formerly Sergeant, United States Air Force


My name is Belinda Sneed and I am a Navy veteran. I am pleased to take this opportunity to send greetings to all veterans today. 

Each one of us made a decision to take an oath to serve our country at some point in our lives. Whether you were drafted or volunteered, you still made a decision to go forth rather than not serve. From that day forward our lives were forever changed. We were no longer individuals, but brothers and sisters in arms. This alone sets veterans above the average American. When I see another vet, I know them and they know me.

No ethnic or socioeconomic background can unravel the threads that bind us together.  Our memories are sometimes bittersweet of comrades gone, but our life experiences are remarkable. Veterans come back from duty or careers end, asking what does the future hold? Why? Because, veterans do not focus on what we lost or the cost, but rather what we have left. You continue to serve long after the doors of the military swing behind you. Perhaps its federal service like most of us here, or maybe teach young people, volunteer with service organizations or start a non-profit organization. I firmly believe that we lead the country on how to work through personal differences to achieve a common goal. Maybe this is part of the problem in Congress currently, with the least amount of veterans in Washington since WWII.

Veterans are the best and the brightest on jobs in the private sector. We make better neighbors and friends. My hope is that all of you take full advantage of the benefits earned by your veteran status. Having served on both sides of the counter, a Navy corpsman and VA employee, I know the importance of taking care of each other. Right now, VA benefits have steadily increased under all administrations since Reagan. In particular, the VA is promoting “Once you’re in, you’re in”. Once a veteran enrolls in the healthcare system, they are enrolled for life.  Many, many, vets are not taking advantage of health care benefits because they have other coverage, but this is a mistake! I’ve seen it too many times.  My advice is to get in “where you fit in”. I encourage all veterans to do a little more this year, in honor of those who are not with us or did not come back whole. Don’t let others give them a voice, we will. I thank God for my union representative, my co-workers, other vets, and friends, who stood in the gap for me when I needed help– now it’s my turn AGAIN.

All the best, to all who served,

Belinda Sneed


United States veteran and AFGE Local 2029 President Mark Barnes discusses what Veterans Day means to him.


The meaning of Veterans Day to me is to honor America’s veterans and military, and reflect on the sacrifices of American warriors past and present. It is not just a day off of work. It is a time to remember that American freedoms come at a cost.

John Ohern, United States Veteran, AFGE Local 1061


Veterans Day means showing respect for individuals who are guarding the nation around the clock and to those who guard the nation on silence without any interest. It also means full respect to those who suffer from illness caused by service and providing fair services and treatments for veterans to continue with their lives. I am a veteran and I believe veterans deserve better treatment. I continue to fight for the rights of veterans in the federal work force.

Julio Font, United States Veteran, AFGE Local 4052


Veterans Day is an excellent day to remember our veterans both past and present and the service they have given for our country.

Steven Pohlmann, AFGE Local 2547


I am proud to be an honorably discharged veteran. I was not an officer. I was not a high-ranking enlisted man. However, I am very proud that I served. I was in West Germany in the 3rd Armored Division.

Veterans Day to me is a way of saying “thank you” to all who have served our nation– whether they were in direct fire from the enemy or provided support. All of us helped our nation and that is what is most important. We worked to help and preserve the qualities and principles that make this nation the greatest in the world.

Efren Carl Cruz, United States Veteran, AFGE Local 2607


Veterans Day means a lot to me. I was given the opportunity to serve our country during Operation Enduring Freedom in both Balgram and Kandahar, Afghanistan from April 2004 to April 2005. Veterans Day is also my birthday so you can see this is a very special day for me. I would like to take this time to say, “Hat’s off to all my fellow veterans who have served and are still serving our great country.”

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Candy Hayes Dorsey, United States Veteran, Local 2747


Veterans Day is a day to remember all of the hard work we’ve done and sacrifices veterans have made to ensure our safety and security as American citizens. Never forget that veterans gave some and some of us gave all. God bless us all.

David Danner, United States Veteran, Local 916


On Veterans Day 2002, I was a keynote speaker at a Veterans Day function. As I was speaking, I looked out at approximately 300 guests, vets, wives, sons, and daughters, representing WW-ll, Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm, etc. I realized that I had never read anything describing who a veteran is. If you asked someone to describe a vet, the most common answer would be “Someone who was in the military.” But who are they really?

I went back to my office and wrote the item below. The next year, I was a keynote speaker at another Veterans Day function and I read the poem. It was very emotional for me as well as many in the audience.

After the function was done, I was signing autographed copies, and a retired two star General approached me and asked for a couple of copies, and permission to send it to Washington, D.C. About four weeks later I was contacted and asked if it would be okay with me to read it at the opening ceremony for the Vietnam Traveling Wall. It was first read in Colorado Springs. It is one of my proudest moments, where I can in some small way honor my fellow brother and sister veterans.

The Veteran

They come from all corners of America,

sons and daughters of factory workers,

truck drivers, housewives, professionals and farmers.

Veterans are of different age, race, sex, color and creed.

Some are short or tall, others thin or stout.

They are willing to sacrifice their life

to protect our country, fellow citizens and world freedom.

They join the military, some with no training,

hoping that they can in some way make a difference.

Little do they know that each individual’s sacrifice

makes a distinct impact in the preservation

of what our forefathers fought for.

A veteran is one who cries when his fellow soldier dies,

but continues on with the mission assignment.

They heal the wounded … some bury the dead.

There are those who plan the missions

and others who seek out the enemy.

Some must transport them to battle, along with those

who provide support and cover in their journey.

There are Commanders, who must give orders for war,

and Chaplains who pray for them all.

The veteran returns from battle, some injured,

 others mentally scarred for life.

All are very humble, matured and not willing to share

the death and destruction they may have witnessed,

 there is no need to cause others despair.

Deep inside their hearts the Veterans know

their goal of sacrifice,

was to serve their country proudly and

help bring peace for all that will follow.


By W. Robb Robichaud, Vietnam Veteran, AFGE Local 2241


I am a veteran. I am the sister, the cousin, the daughter, the niece, the granddaughter, and the great-granddaughter of veterans.

Every generation of my family that I have known has served our nation in uniform. We have all willingly come to our nation’s aid in both times of peace and of war. From World War I to Operation Enduring Freedom, my family has worn the uniform of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

For me, Veterans Day is a day I honor my family’s service, and also those of my extended family– my sisters and brothers in arms. It is the day I thank those who have gone before me for instilling within me the idea that service to country and to our fellow countrymen and women is noble and worthwhile.

It is also the day I pause to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and the day I resolve again to do my part to ensure that nobody who has worn the uniform is forgotten.

Angelique Golden, Former DT3, United States Navy, and Proud AGFE Local 2740 Member


I would like to thank all my fellow comrades for protecting this country, because freedom is not free.

Schwanda Hammond, AFGE Local 3529


Veterans Day is a day I feel proud to have served my country. It makes me proud to be an American. During this day I am always treated so nicely and that makes me feel great about being a veteran. It’s a day all veterans should be proud of themselves.

Larry Cornish, United States Veteran, AFGE Local 1148


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