The most basic of jobs served, to top command posts, veterans served honorably


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Speakers at the Veterans Muster and community veterans salute included Senior Life veterans columnist R. Norman Moody, left, retired USMC Lt. Gen Robert Winglass of IRCC and veterans leader Donn Weaver.

photo by jill blue-gaines

It doesn’t hurt to open with a hilarious story, and as a heavily decorated three-star general, retired USMC Lt. Gen Robert Winglass has a million of them. But the most important message he delivered as keynote speaker at the Veterans Muster and community veterans salute Nov. 18 went straight to the hearts of veterans present.

“Whether you drove in the motor pool or you held the highest command post, you served your country honorably, and you deserve to be acknowledged today and know in your heart every day that what you did made a difference in protecting our freedom,” Winglass said at the annual patriotic event of the Senior Life Boomer Bash & Senior Expo at The Avenue Viera.

Winglass is the highest-ranking retired USMC member residing at Indian River Colony Club in Viera, which sponsored the ceremony and veterans exhibit area. Senior Life hosted the anchor exhibit, Some Gave All’s Moving Tribute 28-panel display of names lost in battle in the war on terror since 9/11, including the names of lives lost that day.

The Penny Creek Band set the tone as vocalist/guitarist Chris Paganoni shared his original song about his deployment to Afghanistan, and how he returned in body but his fractured mind remained on the battlefield, evidenced by that faraway “look in his eyes.” A number of names on the Moving Tribute panels belong to his buddies, he said.

Opening the ceremony was perhaps the most widely known veteran in Brevard, Donn Weaver, known as much for his sacrifice as his service. He is a “Gold Star” father, his officer son Todd having given his life in Afghanistan. 

He is also the president of the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island, the newly expanded facility that reopened Nov. 11. Recently, Weaver also took on the gavel as president of the Military Officers Association of America Cape Canaveral Chapter, the largest in the world.

He had one job at the event, to convey to the audience in introducing a third speaker just what the man means to the veterans community: R. Norman Moody, who has covered veterans affairs in Brevard for 20 years and is held in great esteem by veterans groups. He is the newest columnist for Senior Life, appearing in the Stripes veterans section.

“A lot of people assume I am a veteran, and that is one of my life’s biggest regrets, that when I came of age after Vietnam they didn’t need anyone in the military because it was shrinking,” Moody said.

He shared practical steps community members can take to show veterans they appreciate their service.

“If you have the time — volunteer with an organization that serves veterans. There are many in Brevard.

If you have the money — donate to a local organization that helps veterans.

If you can write a letter — direct one to congress and to the VA secretary advocating for veterans.

If you are an employer — hire a veteran.

If you appreciate the service of our veterans — tell them, ‘Thank you for your service to our nation.’ ”