Columbus connects with the community during Veterans Day weekend

  • Published
  • By Airman Davis Donaldson
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Veterans Day is a time to express gratitude and thankfulness to the men and women who have fearlessly served; and Columbus Air Force Base Airmen took time throughout Veterans Day weekend to connect with the community and attended multiple festivities in honor of veterans past and present.

Members of Team BLAZE participated in several events in Columbus, Mississippi, and the surrounding area from Nov. 8-12.

Col. Betty Venth, 14th Medical Group commander, 2nd Lt. Michelle Strickland, 37th Flying Training Squadron student pilot and Master Sgt. Beverly Freeman, 14th Mission Support Group first sergeant, went to New Hope Middle School to watch New Hope’s pep girls perform and also sat on a panel to answer questions from students.

Students were interested in knowing where the three Airmen had been stationed and deployed. They also asked about their combat time, what training was like when they entered the service and what’s been their proudest moment during their Air Force career.

After the questions, the three service members stayed for a few extra minutes to meet and mingle with some of the students personally.

Later that day, 2nd Lt. Brett Herring, 14th Student Squadron student pilot, traveled to Lil’ Blessings, a child care center in Hamilton, Mississippi, to answer children’s questions and also led a craft project with them.

The city of Columbus had their annual Veterans Day Parade and Ceremony Nov. 9. Members of the 14th Flying Training Wing participated in the parade. Helping lead the parade was the Columbus AFB Honor Guard. In addition there was also a marching unit which consisted of Airmen from every group on base, and a fire truck.

During the ceremony, the honor guard presented the colors and Col. Weeks, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, presented a wreath with other local veterans and city leaders honoring the sacrifices prior service members and their families gave for freedom’s fight.

During the Mississippi University for Women’s Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11, Chief Master Sgt. Raul Villarreal Jr., 14th Flying Training Wing command chief, spoke to students and faculty about his perspective on what Veterans Day means to him.

“I do not see myself as a veteran because I am still serving but I think about my wife who served for 23 years and every veteran here today,” Villarreal said.

He shared with the attendees that less than one percent of Americans are currently serving in any capacity and less than 10% have ever served. “The military cultivates an environment of selfless action,” Villarreal said. “Not for personal gain but for the betterment of those we serve alongside with and for our country.”

The same day, Chief Master Sgt. Kellie Brisse, 14th Operations Group superintendent, spoke to students at Heritage Academy in Columbus. Brisse spoke about the importance of honoring veterans and how they blend in and throughout society, stating, “You can’t tell a vet just by looking.”

“We owe our nation's veterans a debt we can never repay,” Brisse said. “We can and should remember them and what they did and why. But we must honor them with deeds, not just words.”

She went on to explain that a thanking a veteran for their service is a good way to show appreciation, however, “an even better way to thank a veteran is by living your lives and enjoying America's greatness. You can thank veterans by taking full advantage of all your rights that they defended.”

Lt. Col. Christopher Kelly, 14th Medical Group chief nurse, helped wrap up the Veterans Day events by attending and speaking to students at East Mississippi Community College, in Columbus, Mississippi, Nov. 12.

At the ceremony, Kelly informed the students about the history of medics in the military and the advancements that have been made.

He then proceeded to talk about how the military pushed his limits to do the things he thought were impossible prior to joining and that he’s very thankful for the experience. He said one of his favorite parts about being a medic in the military is being down range to take care of injured service members and to bring them back home.

Kelly said he has always been grateful to his nation and America’s veterans, and felt like being medic in the military was his way to give back and contribute.