Veterans honored in Aiken at annual ceremony; vets speak about experiences

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AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Many are honoring veterans in the CSRA, including in Aiken. It’s all a part of the annual veterans day ceremony. “We’re here today by God’s grace,” Rep. Bill Taylor told the crowd attending the annual ceremony.

It was that grace that on an overcast day in the All America City, dozens of people showed their support for the folks fighting to keep America safe. In this crowd, both with two legs and even four, was retired Corporal Harold L. Pack. He’s also known as “Hal.” “I played basketball most of the time,” Cpl. Pack recalled chuckling.

The now 97-year-old served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in World War II. He was there right after D-Day, and he remembers the relationships built at the time while he served. “I had a lot of favorite friends there in service and, I would say many of them, and we had a great time,” he said. “I think the biggest thing being able to serve under three different generals,” he added.

Is it those relationships that submariner QuarterMaster Larry Rose remembers from his four years in the Navy. “Well, just being able to see the world through the eyes of the service and the comradery that we had onboard the submarines especially was quite special,” QM Rose said. He even joked about his reasons for joining that team. “My draft number was coming up; my friend and I did not want to join the Army and go to Vietnam and smell napalm and agent orange. “[My best friend] in high school said, ‘so let’s go join the Navy,’ and I said ‘let’s go down,” Cpl. Rose said.

During the ceremony, a wreath was laid in honor of those whose names are inscribed on the veterans monument at the Aiken County Veterans Memorial Park in Aike

QM Rose even got to see Guantanamo Bay twice. “[It was two] six weeks periods down there in the four years that I was in. We did a tour of Europe, the Mediterranean, we across the pond. That was pretty special. We had some war games, so we went over to play with the other ships and get sunk and seek other things for pretend. Luckily. So it was during the Vietnam area and I was very blessed that I didn’t have to go over to Vietnam. Like I go to the VA hospital in Augusta and it really saddens me every time I go over there to see the gentlemen that have been affected through that war,” he recalls.

Joseph Arevalos was a corporal in the Army and is an Iraqi War vet. While some memories weren’t pleasant, for him, it was meeting others fighting on the same side that allowed him to become a team player. “We’re more like brothers than we are friends in the military. We’re a very close family,” he said.

The keynote speaker was a former captain of the Army Nurse Corps during the Vietnam War, retired Cpt. Linda Caldwell.

During the ceremony, a wreath was laid in honor of those whose names are inscribed on the veterans monument at the Aiken County Veterans Memorial Park in Aiken. The keynote speaker was a former captain of the Army Nurse Corps during the Vietnam War, retired Cpt. Linda Caldwell. “Whether you were or are in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and now the Space Force, you’re in the company of fellow veterans and you speak the same language,” she said to the crowd. “You share the same objective to accomplish the mission. And you trust that your teammate has your back,” she added.

The NJROTC of Silver Bluff High School presented the colors at the ceremony. The AAA Homeschool Band provided the music.

The NJROTC of Silver Bluff High School presented the colors at the ceremony.

Meanwhile, for Hal and the others, it was great to see the community coming out to honor them even for a moment. ”I see that all the people turned out that always make me feel good. See people are people to honor people. And I think they sure show it,” Cpl. Pack said.

“It was beautiful. I just wish that more people would attend because sometimes they’ll never realize, you know, the different era that this, represents right here, you know, from World War II, we had someone today, Vietnam War, Gulf War for myself, Iraq war,” Cpl. Arevalos said. “We need to keep that alive, you know, for the future, you know, incoming veterans,” he added.

“I’ve been coming to this event for several years and this was the largest group that we’ve had. It was the longest event. They had more speakers and I enjoyed it a lot,” Cpl. Rose recalled. “I came a couple of years ago, my friend Ben Rouse was here he just passed away at a hundred and a half years old and it was neat to have a World War II guys here. That this really is a lot of this stuff is for, because that was the greatest generation,” he added.

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