ALBANY — Albany Technical College hosted a Veterans Day ceremony Tuesday at the college’s Kirkland Center.
Not wanting to infringe on Veterans Day ceremonies held elsewhere in Albany, leaders at Albany Tech decided to stage the school’s first ever ceremony honoring veterans the day after Veterans Day.
The event kicked off with the Westover High School ROTC presenting the colors while Albany High School students Olivia Smith, Ashley Kruel and A’Siaunnya Bryant, lead a rousing a cappella rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
The Albany High School Chorus followed that in singing “My Country 'Tis of Thee” and “God Bless America.”
Keeping the celebratory spirit going, retired Marine colonel and current YMCA President and CEO Dan Gillan, who also served as keynote speaker for the event, wowed the crowd by playing both “The Marine Corps Hymn” and “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.
Gillan, who is one of South Georgia’s foremost bagpipe players, thanked the audience before he began playing and also gave reasons for his song choices.
“I’m going to play ‘The Marine Corps Hymn’ not because I’m biased toward the corps, but in honor of the corps 238th birthday that was celebrated Sunday,” Gillan said. “The second song, well, I think when you hear it you’ll know why I chose it.”
After a video tribute to veterans of all branches of the service, Gillan returned to the stage to offer the audience his thoughts on the service veterans provide and what makes veterans important in our society.
“Each one of our armed forces has a set of values, core values,” Gillan said. “Our Marine Corps values are honor, courage and commitment. We share those same core values with our Navy brothers and sisters. You have the Air Force with integrity, service and excellence. You’ve got our United States Coast Guard with honor, respect and devotion to duty. Then you’ve got the Army, they’ve got loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. These corps values represent the ultimate in moral and ethical behavior.”
Gillan, who retired from his post as CEO and commander of the Maintenance Center at Albany Marine Corps Logistics Base in 2009, after 33 years of active service, used his recent transition into the public sector, to illustrate how those core values drive so many veterans to continue serving the country even after their military careers.
“Just recently I assumed the lead role at the local YMCA as CEO and president and I’ll tell you that the common theme that I think that represents to me, and I share that with other fellow veterans, is that sense of service that we all own,” Gillan said. “Service to our nation, service to our country. And I’ll tell you what, the YMCA has those same core values.”
Albany Tech President Dr. Anthony Parker announced the winner of the school’s recent essay contest and asked the winner, Michelle Tippetts, a student and an Air Force Veteran, to take the podium to read her winning essay.
The subject of Tippetts’ essay was “What Does Veterans Day mean to Me,” best summed up the importance of recognizing the nation’s veterans.
“For me Veterans Day was just another day to be out of school or off from work, Tippett began. “However, when I turned 18 I joined the United States Air Force and Veteran’s Day completely changed for me. I learned about the sacrifices made by our soldiers, about what freedom truly meant and the honor of the soldiers fighting now and our fallen.”
“I learned firsthand about the sacrifices soldiers make, as well as the sacrifices of these soldiers’ families,” Tippett continued. “Fathers are deployed when their children are born. Mothers and fathers alike miss out on being able to tuck their children in bed at night. They miss out on the birthday parties, Thanksgiving and being able to watch their families open Christmas gifts. Spouses, mothers and fathers sacrifice never knowing if their loved one has been killed in the line of duty. I learned that the ultimate sacrifice that is made by our soldiers is the loss of life, which is freely given. I learned about what freedom really meant. Soldiers fighting wars to make sure every American has the right to freedom. Soldiers lay down their lives in order for Americans to feel safe.”