From left: Fort Belvoir Command Sgt. Maj. Garth Newell; COL Joe Messina, Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander; and Mike Bigelow, INSCOM Historian, saluting at the Garrison's Veterans Day observance at the Cold War Memorial, Nov. 9. Messina stressed the strength of the Army is based on the professionalism of its all-volunteer force.

Fort Belvoir hosts Veterans Day observance on 50th anniversary of all-volunteer force

Dozens of veterans, family members, supporters and Fort Belvoir leaders gathered Thursday to express gratitude for the sacrifices made by veterans.

Hosted at the Cold War Memorial on the base's Long Parade Field, the invocation was performed by Chaplain Maj. Marlon Brown, and Col. Joseph Messina, the garrison’s commander, presented the opening remarks.

“Soldiers made the choice to serve their country. It was not forced upon them. The strength of our force is reflected in the quality and professionalism of our people,” Messina said. “This year marked the 50th anniversary of the all- volunteer force, and if you are a veteran who served our country, I want to personally thank you for your commitment to keeping our country safe and for being part of the world's greatest army.”

In his remarks, Messina acknowledged the Army’s strengths and the necessity to continue supporting veterans after their service.

“Our greatest asset is our people are all volunteers ... Americans of all races, genders and creeds, and our common commitment to the defense and love for our country binds us and unites us,” Messina said. “As a nation, we must ensure that the service and sacrifice of our veterans is never overlooked or forgotten. The Army believes that every soldier is a soldier for life and is committed to removing barriers to their success, both in and out of the Army.” 

Messina then introduced the featured speaker of the event, retired Lt. Col. Michael E. Bigelow.

LTC (Ret) Mike Bigelow, INSCOM Historian, addresses the audience at Fort Belvoir's Veterans Day Observance at the Cold War Memorial, Nov. 9. Bigelow suggested the deepest thanks to Veterans could be emulation of their service to the country.

Bigelow spent over 22 years in the Army as a military intelligence officer. Upon his retirement, Bigelow became the command historian for the Army Intelligence and Security Command. His work involves supervising and directing the command’s historical program, which includes collecting and archiving documents, directing exhibits and researching historical studies.

Bigelow explained the origins of Veterans Day and acknowledged some lesser-known veterans throughout history.

“I want to offer a personal thank you for all those veterans standing out there ... thank you for serving and protecting,” Bigelow said. “As we look to honor these veterans in our lives, perhaps the most powerful way to express our gratitude for their sacrifice is by trying to emulate it.”

Latrice Pace, a gospel singer-songwriter from Atlanta, performed the National Anthem along with an original song titled “Your Blood Speaks.” 

Latrice Pace, singer-songwriter, performed her live debut of her song, Your Blood Speaks: A Tribute to our Veterans at Fort Belvoir's Veterans Day ceremony, Nov. 9. You can hear her perform on the Facebook Live recording.

Pace wrote the song as a tribute to veterans and their families. Her performance at Fort Belvoir was her first time performing the song live.

“My dad was a veteran, and I thought what better way to pay tribute than using what God has given me to write a song that I can embrace and hear and appreciate,” Patrice said. “I was filled with so much gratitude writing [the song], because I began to realize how much veterans literally sacrifice -- and not just them, but even their families and many times people don't think about how the family sacrifices so much as well.”

The ceremony concluded with a wreath presentation, provided by the Fort Belvoir Garden club and the playing of "The Army Song."

The images from the event are available for viewing on Fort Belvoir's Flickr Page

by Cameron Delean, InsideNoVa