On Veterans Day, local veterans said the best thank you they could get is seeing young men and women in uniform continuing to serve their country the way they once did.
At a small ceremony Monday at Atlantic Cape Community College to honor veterans, speakers were very emotional and often decided not to read from their prepared speeches and instead speak from the heart. Some of the veterans interrupted their speeches momentarily when overcome by emotion.
“A veteran likes to be recognized,” said Nicholas Raben, a retired Army master sergeant who served 41 months in Iraq during his 21-year career. “The best message I can pass along is to thank a veteran.”
The 40 year-old Mays Landing resident said the best thank you a veteran can receive is from someone serving in the military.
Raben said he participated in a parade in New York on Sunday, and instead of riding on a float, decided to walk the route in uniform and personally thank all the veterans who attended.
“I wanted to be there to thank them,” he said. “If you can shake a veteran’s hand, that’s the best thing you can do.”
Egg Harbor Township resident Mike Ebert, 60, a former Marine lance corporal who served in Vietnam, is also an archery teacher at the college. The member of the local Wounded Warriors chapter works with young men and women who are interested in serving the military.
“I want to make sure our young people who want to serve know there is honor and pride,” he said. “I want to teach them what it’s like to be proud and have honor in what they do.”
Atlantic Cape has held an annual Veterans Day ceremony for more than 30 years, said co-organizer Kristen Grech, assistant director of the school’s financial aid and veteran affairs department.
“It’s a modest little ceremony, but every year this is something we make sure happens,” she said.
The college usually has a current student speak, but many of them are members of the National Guard and were called to duty because of Hurricane Sandy, Grech said. The college has about 135 students who are veterans who enrolled using the GI Bill, she said.
College President Peter Mora said honoring veterans is part of the college’s service to the community and will always be a mission of the institution.
The event was held in a small adjoining room to the cafeteria, and students spilled in to join the few dozen in attendance.
“I wanted to come in and show my respects to the men and women who are fighting to save us from harm,” said first-year student Acquinn Phillip, 20. of Pleasantville, who noted his uncle is an Iraq veteran. “Veterans Day is meaningful for me, and I wanted to honor it.”
Buena resident Alissa Cerzosimo, 38, who served in the Navy during peacetime from 1994-97 as an E-3 specialist, said Veterans Day was a great day to thank a veteran, as well as the other 364 days in the year.
“I am forever grateful to the men and women who fight for our country in the past and currently,” she said. “It’s because of you I was able to have a great experience in the military.”
Contact Joel Landau:
Follow @landaupressofac on Twitter