Each Veterans Day, Brian Goodson typically goes to a cemetery to pay his respects to those who have served in the U.S. military.
The Mansfield native and Air Force veteran enjoys talking to fellow veterans while there. Their stories remind him of why he joined the military in the first place: his father, who served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.
While growing up, Goodson often would accompany his father to the local American Legion post. Goodson said he takes inspiration from him to this day.
“It wasn’t just the military,” he said. “It was how he approached everyday life and his decision-making.”
On Thursday, Goodson celebrated Veterans Day by attending a ceremony at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, which marked its third anniversary two weeks ago.
First called Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I, the federal holiday’s name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 and honors all who have served in the U.S. military.
This Veterans Day comes after the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan in August, ending the longest war in American history.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, president and CEO of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, said veterans of the conflict are experiencing a range of emotions after witnessing the Taliban take control of the country.
“I want you to know that your service matters and your service matters even more today,” he said. “You’ve protected America for all these years.”
This Veterans Day also comes almost one month after the death of Colin Powell, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretary of state, national security adviser and role model to many Black veterans.
Lester Lyles, a retired Air Force four-star general and keynote speaker at Thursday’s ceremony, called Powell, who served two decorated combat tours in Vietnam, the “consummate veteran.” Lyles also counted Powell as a friend, mentor and hero.
“A hero is someone who’s given his or her life to some bigger goal than oneself. And that to me is really the definition of a veteran,” he said.
Franklin County Commissioner Erica Crawley served in the U.S. Navy during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She told the audience of about 100 that she was inspired to enlist because of her father, who fought in Vietnam, and her brother, who participated in the Gulf War.
“This experience shaped and molded me into the public servant I am today,” she said. “It gave me lifelong friendships and helped me pay for my education.”
Crawley said that as a Black woman, Veterans Day takes on added importance.
African Americans have been overrepresented in the military and have not received due recognition for their service, Crawley said, pointing to “Buffalo Soldiers,” or African Americans who served on the Western frontier following the Civil War.
Crawley said she is working with state lawmakers to designate July 28 as Buffalo Soldiers Day in Ohio.
Lee McClish, 61, also attended Thursday’s service. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1982 to 2012.
“Freedom isn’t free,” the Delaware County resident said. “I think a lot of people take it for granted in our country. We need a strong military.”