A Veteran Namesake

Story Number: NNS171113-26Release Date: 11/13/2017 11:05:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jaq Renard, Naval Surface Force Atlantic Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Veteran's Day is a distinctive moment for many Americans who served their country during times of war and times of peace.

It is a day that brings about great patriotism and pride in its citizens who appreciate the contributions and sacrifices of the women and men that dawn the uniform of our Nation's military, in the defense of our Constitution and civil liberties.

Oscar Palmer Austin, a year after his high school graduation, enlisted into the Marine Corps April 22, 1968 in Phoenix, Arizona., during the midst of the Vietnam conflict. In February 1969, the young 21-year-old African American gallantly aided in the protection of his brothers-at-arms during an engagement with opposing forces in Da Nang, South Vietnam.

After seeing another Soldier wounded, unconscious, and dangerously exposed to hostile fire, Austin unhesitatingly left his fighting hole and, with complete disregard for his own safety, raced to that Soldier across fire-swept terrain to drag the injured Marine to safety. As he neared the injured Marine, an enemy grenade landed nearby Austin. Leaping between the grenade and the injured Marine, Austin took the full force of the explosion himself. Although badly injured, Austin turned to help his fallen companion and saw a North Vietnamese soldier aiming a weapon at the unconscious man. With full knowledge of the probable consequences, Austin threw himself between the injured Marine and the Vietnamese soldier. He gave his life that day, February 23, 1969. While Austin's life was curtailed, his valiant selfless courage lives on.

Austin's family was presented with the Medal of Honor by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew at the White House, April 20, 1970.

The Navy commissioned a warship in 2000 to honor Austin. The guided missile destroyer USS Oscar P. Austin (DDG 79) was commissioned at Naval Station Norfolk, August 19, 2000.

Oscar Austin Sailors continue to serve and embrace the legacy of Austin, as well as the ideals and standards of the Marine Corps and Navy.

"We continue to carry on his legacy by living up to our motto 'honor and sacrifice' by giving back to this nation," said USS Oscar Austin's Command Master Chief Jorge Soto, the ship's senior enlisted leader. "It's an honor to represent the crew of the USS Oscar Austin... for his accomplishments and sacrifice."

Last year, Sailors from the Austin traveled to Arizona to pay their respects to their ships' namesake with a wreath laying ceremony and participated in other engagements during Phoenix Navy Week, March 21-26, 2016.

The Senior Pastor at First Institutional Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. Warren H. Steward, Sr. who presided over the wreath laying ceremony said it was a fitting day to honor and commemorate Austin.

"Jesus Christ once said that a greater love does not exists then when a man lay down his life for his friends' and Oscar Austin is one who did just that," Steward said.

One of the most essential benefits any military veteran earns is the right for their selfless service to be honored when they fall. A service member's passing, whether in combat, old age, sickness or accidental, is finalized by the presentation of a folded flag to their loved ones.

For veterans, private citizens, and government leaders, along with industry, businesses, media, and entertainment leaders, it's important to understand why Verterans Day originated and what it means.

In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the First World War concluded with the signing of an armistice that ceased conflicts between the Allied nations and German forces. The signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June 28, 1919, officially ended World War I.

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first commemoration of Armistice Day on Nov. 11, a day on which the nation celebrated the end of "The Great War" with parades and public gatherings. On May 13, 1938, Congress passed legislation and Armistice Day became a legal federal holiday.

For many years Armistice Day reflected first World War until June 1, 1954, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name of Armistice Day, a day whose origins were tied to World War I, to Veteran's Day, in order to officially recognize veterans who served our country in all wars past, present and future.

s Day is intended to honor veterans, both past and present, for their honorable service.

This Veteran's Day, Sailors aboard ships around the globe are selflessly serving. As Surface ships in the Atlantic Force celebrate Veteran's Day, we continue to embody our namesake veterans and celebrate the legacy of our veterans from across all of the services, past and present.

For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.

For more news from Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/surflant/.

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