American Legion Post 20 commander Jesse Sachez plays taps during the final moments of Monday's Veterans Day ceremony at Selma's Memorial Stadium. -- Tim Reeves
American Legion Post 20 commander Jesse Sachez plays taps during the final moments of Monday's Veterans Day ceremony at Selma's Memorial Stadium. -- Tim Reeves

Area veterans honored during annual ceremony

Published 8:03pm Monday, November 11, 2013

Selma didn’t celebrate victory Monday. Instead it honored those who made victory possible during the annual Veterans Day Celebration at Memorial Stadium.

Retired Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon, a Selma native and Monday’s guest speaker, began by honoring the veterans present and spoke of changes that have occurred since she began serving in the military more than 30 years ago.

“We don’t want this day to be a celebration of victory, but rather a celebration of those who made victory possible,” Gordon, who recently retired from the Alabama National Guard, said. “We keep the story of their sacrifice alive through our remembrance.”

She also spoke about a group of veterans who have emerged as a result of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Today, nearly half of all the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are filing for (Veterans Affairs benefits), making them America’s most medically and mentally troubled generation of soldiers,” Gordon said. “The issues faced by our newest veterans are much different. Mental health problems are a major issue.”

An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day because of post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.

The make-up of the veteran population isn’t the only thing that has changed since Gordon joined the military. Women are also beginning to see combat more often. Though, combat isn’t the same as it used to be.

“Insurgents use women, children and public transportation as weapons,” she said.

Because of an increase in technology, the Army has also added more career specialties, such as information protection.

She told a story of a recent trip to Alexander City that would be a major problem in a warzone.

“A fiber optic cable that supplied Internet and cell phone service to the area was accidentally cut,” she said. “No one could make a call on their cell phone. Businesses could not conduct credit card transactions; you could only buy food gas or merchandise with cash and the merchants had to record all those transactions on paper.”

She asked attendees to think of the destruction that a similar incident could have on a larger scale, saying that cyber terrorism may pose a bigger threat than soldiers or tanks.

Regardless of changes, Gordon said the purpose of Veterans Day would never change.

“It’s a day set aside to honor those who have served in the armed forces,” she said.

Gordon is the first woman to reach the a general office rank of any level in the history of the Alabama National Guard.

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