ALBANY — Albany Technical College (ATC) faculty, staff and students joined community guests Tuesday to honor the service and sacrifice of those serving in the United States armed forces during a special Veteran’s Day ceremony held on the 240th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

This year’s ceremony, held in the school’s Kirkland Conference Center, marked the third year in a row ATC hosted a special Veteran’s Day ceremony on the eve of Veteran’s Day designed to honor the areas veterans and add some important meaning to a day that many view as simply a day to be off from work or school.

“We have the opportunity to have Veteran’s Day as a day off and that’s certainly appreciated, but over the years we’ve come to realize that simply taking the day off and not acknowledging the service that others have provided to this nation is not the appropriate thing to do,” said ATC President Anthony Parker. “Albany Tech is very fortunate and very blessed to have a large part of its family be individuals who have served this country in the armed forces.We have students who have served, we have faculty who have served and we have staff who have served. And we are certainly proud of their contribution.”

In a show of appreciation the school’s ceremony included an invocation from retired United States Marine Steve Eidon, bagpipe performances of “Amazing Grace” and “The Marine Corps Hymn” by Albany YMCA Executive Director and retired Marine Corps Col. Dan Gillan, and a musical presentation that included the “Star Spangled Banner” performed by the Lincoln Elementary Magnet School Chorus.

The ceremony also featured a keynote address from retired U.S. Navy veteran and current Oakridge Baptist Church Pastor Richard Pogue, who shared his thoughts about veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made for others.

Pogue began his remarks by saying that many veterans and current active military joined the service voluntarily, meaning that they made a conscience decision to put others before themselves and in many ways completely give up their lives for others.

“It’s easy to volunteer to help somebody in the community but when you volunteer for the military, volunteer to separate yourself from your family, to dedicate yourself to service and ultimately say that you will give up your life if necessary, that takes more than just volunteering,” said Pogue. “Too many people don’t understand the contributions of the military. It doesn’t matter whether one is enlisted or an officer. He or she has raised their hand and said ‘I’m willing to give all I’ve got to serving my country.’ In the civilian world, those of you who come and work, you work eight to 10 hours a day and you go home, but not the military man or woman. They come and they give their all and they’re on 24/7.”

Pogue also recognized that for many men and women in the armed services that contribution to the country also included sacrificing their lives. According to Pogue 116,000 U.S. military died in WWI, 405,000 died in WWII, 36,574 died in Korea, 58,220 died in Vietnam, 383 died in the Gulf War, and 6,607 lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pogue said those who have served and continue to serve stand as models of what everyone should strive for and how society in general would likely operate more effectively if it were modeled after the military.

“I ask the question, how great would America be if they used the military as the benchmark,” asked Pogue. “We’re strong but we could become even stronger if we used the military as a benchmark. You see the military looks at who’s best for the job, without regards to race, or ethnicity or gender. They look at who’s best for the particular job. As a result of that they come out winners.”

It was Pogue’s closing remarks where attributed some of the country’s greatest freedoms to the military, however, that seemed to resonate with the crowd, eliciting claps and shouts of agreement from the audience members.

“I decided to compare veterans to other professions because I see veterans as professionals,” said Pogue. “It is the veteran, not the preacher who has given us freedom of religion. It is the veteran not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press. It is the veteran not the court who has given us freedom of speech. It is the veteran not the campus organizer who has given us freedom to assemble. It is the veteran not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the veteran not the politician who keep us safe. Veterans, that’s why I salute you.”

Parker invited the crowd to enjoy cake provided by the ATC Culinary Arts department in celebration of the Marine Corps’ 240th birthday.

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