Fort Johnson pays tribute to veterans

Published 10:16 am Friday, November 10, 2023

By Emily Burleigh

A Veterans Day ceremony was hosted Thursday by the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson.

For those at Fort Johnson, Veterans Day is not just a holiday, but a “reminder of the best of America,” according to Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, commanding general, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson.

He and Interim Garrison Deputy Commander Mark S. Leslie spoke before a wreath was laid to pay tribute to the “spirit of the soldiers and veterans that have trained at Fort Johnson.” Gardner noted that Veterans Day has been celebrated for almost a century on the anniversary of Armistice Day – the day that an agreement was signed to end World War I.

“Each year across the country, we set this day aside to celebrate and pay tribute to America’s veterans for their devotion, patriotism, selfless services and sacrifice on behalf of all of us.”

There are 18 million veterans alive today, with their service spanning from World War II to current conflicts in the Middle East, he said. For over 80 years, “the boots of America’s bravest have tread upon the soil of Central Louisiana” at Fort Johnson.

“Many of our veterans, who after serving our country with valor and dedication continue to contribute their expertise, wisdom and spirit of service right here at Fort Johsnon.”

After training and gaining the “warrior spirit” at Fort Johnson, (they) go on to serve globally, he said.

“The soldiers trained in Fort Johnson have not just defended our nation’s border, they have contributed to global peace and stability. Their footprints are etched across various corners of the world in missions that symbolize hope, resilience and the indomitable spirit of human solidarity.”

There are many veterans that work at Fort Johnson. Leslie, who served in the U.S. Army in uniform for 30 years, is one such veteran.

He said that his heroes are “not entertainers, athletes, designers, singers, influencers, actors” but the “dozens, if not hundreds of men” that he witnessed selflessly serving.

“Those men are scattered across this country, many alive and well, some in cemeteries, and some sitting right here. Those men and women are American heroes, those are my heroes.”

Gardner believes it is paramount to honor, listen and learn from veterans’ experiences.

“We must always provide a platform for veterans, like Mark, service members, military families to share their stories. In doing so, it gives us an opportunity to honor them, their voices, amplify their experiences and let them know that we, as a nation, are listening.”

This practice is not only a point of respect for veterans, but beneficial for the growth of soldiers in training. He said the presence of veterans connects the past and present, and transforms their installation into a dynamic archive of “historical lessons, strategic evolution and the warrior ethos.”

“Our veterans are the guardians of institutional knowledge and hard-earned experience. They have navigated the complexities of various military campaigns, absorbed the essence of leadership in the shadows of diversity and cultivated a resilience that stands as a beacon for those who follow in their footsteps.”