SPRING LAKE — The town of Spring Lake recognized military service at its Veterans Day ceremony on Friday with participants from the two Veteran of Foreign Wars organizations in town, Post 4542 and Post 9103, and American Legion Post 230.
Town Alderman Marvin Lackman, an ex-officio member of the Military and Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee, said it was one of his goals to bring back participation from the military-related organizations that have had a long-standing presence in Spring Lake.
Around 40 people attended the ceremony in the Grady Howard conference room of Town Hall.
Retired Staff Sgt. Ryan Anderson, the keynote speaker, said he joined the Army as a newlywed looking for a way to support his family as a young man from Philadelphia.
“Joining the Army was very nice for me because you get to see people from all over the world,’’ he said. “I remember in basic, we had a couple of former gang members from LA and kids from Wyoming who had never left their farm. The military for me was seeing people from all over and it didn’t matter where you came from.”
He said he learned two things in basic training from an Army Ranger who met his group when they exited the bus. One was that all soldiers are Army green and that was the only color that mattered. The other was that they would do the thinking for him.
He started his career as a mechanic before entering Special Forces. When he retired, he and his wife opened a gym in Spring Lake among other business ventures.
He said he is inspired daily by the veterans around him, who push themselves even in retirement and older age. Anderson said there is an older Spring Lake resident who comes into his gym daily.
“He served in Vietnam,’’ Anderson said. “He lost his wife last year and he suffered a stroke, but he still comes in. And he will tell me you have two choices. You can either keep fighting every day or roll over and die. We all stumble, but we need to continue to put one foot in front of the other.”
Minutes before Anderson began to speak, another resident who was scheduled to be recognized, retired Sgt. Maj. Charles L. Miller, fell and needed medical attention. He is a charter member of VFW 9103 in Spring Lake.
Miller, an 84-year-old Army veteran, began his 24-year career on Dec. 1, 1952, when he enlisted and retired on May 15, 1976. He lost the lower part of his left leg in Vietnam while leading a group of American and Vietnamese soldiers on a search and destroy mission in 1969.
As Lackman recognized Miller, he said, “Shortly after disembarking on the river bank, Miller heard a sharp explosion. Turning, he saw one of his troops with both legs blown off by a land mine. As he moved toward the injured soldier, he too was rocked by a toe-popper mine. The explosion did not knock him to the ground though. As he looked down, he saw his tattered left pant leg flapping in the breeze, but there was no foot or leg in the pants.”
Lackman said Miller was transferred to the Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania and his recuperation was remarkable. With hard work and reams of paperwork, Miller was able to remain active duty and finish his Special Forces career.
His military decorations include the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and others. He has been a member of the VFW Post 9103 since 1966, a member of the Disabled American Veterans since 1970, a life member of the American Legion and the Military Order of the Purple Heart, according to Lackman.
As Miller fell, he was quickly attended to by Fire Chief Jason Williams, who is currently serving as interim town manager, medics from the Fire Department and members from the VFW and American Legion organizations.
“There is a brotherhood there,” Anderson said as he recognized Miller’s dedicated and faithful career and how quickly the room sprung into action to aid their fellow brother, in service and in arms.
Lackman said Miller will be invited back for a proper acknowledgment and thank you at a later date.
Mayor Kia Anthony thanked everyone for their service, and Alderwoman Adrian Thompson read a poem commemorating what Veterans Day means. Anthony, Thompson and Lackman are all veterans.
Jami McLaughlin covers Spring Lake for CityView. She can be reached at email@example.com.