NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- Veterans Day is a holiday meant to honor those who served, and are currently serving. While many government employees and service members enjoy a day off in addition to many freebees from local businesses, it is important to remember what Veterans Day is about—service.
Sailors assigned to the Weapons Department aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) participated in a community relations (COMREL) event Nov. 11, at the Arnold G. Horton, Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk, Va.
“I was looking for ways to pay it forward and pay respects to our veterans, and the event popped up,” said Gunners Mate 3rd Class Michelle Lopera, one of the event coordinators. “I couldn’t pass up such a beautiful opportunity.”
The Sailors gathered at the cemetery early in the day, began cleaning gravesites, and placing American flags in front of each tombstone.
Even though the weather was foul and didn’t cooperate for them, it didn’t deter the Sailors from doing their part in the community,
“My favorite part of this event was that everyone was in high spirits,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Monica Celaya, an event participant. “Despite the bad weather, everyone was still helping the community.”
Lt. Shineka Haskins, another event participant, shared the same sentiments as Celaya, stating how proud she was of the department’s turnout and how they all came together to get the job done.
The Sailors realized that taking care of the cemetery was bigger than just being involved in a COMREL. They saw the bigger picture, the bigger meaning behind Veterans Day.
“I think it’s very important that we don’t forget those who’ve come before us,” said Lopera. “What we do today doesn’t compare to what the ones before us have done and have overcome. Today wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
In addition to paying homage to veterans that came before current day service members, visiting the cemetery was another way to remember all veterans.
“By taking part in this COMREL, we were able to show veterans and citizens that they haven’t been forgotten,” said Haskins. “Veterans Day for me is about remembering those who are living and who have fallen and sacrificed so that I could serve.”
Celaya felt that it was imperative to participate in this event not only to give back but also because of a more personal connection.
“This was an opportunity to provide support for fallen service members,” said Celaya. “My father served and retired from the Army. I felt a strong connection to this holiday.”
While this event was valuable for the community and past veterans, it also served to show junior Sailors the impact they have on the public.
“I believe junior Sailors were able to see that [as a veteran], whether they are here or not, they aren’t forgotten,” said Haskins. “Their service is commended, not just by the Navy, but people appreciate the uniform and what the military does for the country. Recognizing veterans honors the service member and it honors their families.”
No matter how one chooses to spend their Veterans Day, remember with service comes sacrifice, and sometimes all it takes is braving the weather that Mother Nature provides to make a difference.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.