Honoring Veterans is of the utmost importance to us at the National Home. We are veteran founded, veteran supported, and run a veteran family-focused program. Though we celebrate veterans throughout the year, our Veterans Day dinner is a special event that allows us to come together as an organization to recognize the sacrifices of these brave men and women. This year we welcomed a guest speaker, 1SG, Jon Livingston with the Michigan National Guard, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery 1st Battalion 119th Field Artillery to speak with residents and staff. 1SG Livingston, who has served deployments in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, shared with National Home residents and staff the importance of his service, the lifelong friendships, and connections from across the globe and the flag that binds us all together.
“We all find that community in a flag,” he said.
“Flags are personal. They show others what you stand for, who you root for, and who you want to succeed.” He added, holding up the Michigan and Michigan State sports flags to cheering and booing.
The American flag ties us all together. When a soldier is deployed, at their deployment ceremony, their family is given a small folded American flag in a case. When a soldier is laid to rest, the American flag is draped on their coffin, and then it is folded and presented to their family during their funeral honors.
Growing up, Sergeant Livingston reflected on spending time at his grandfather’s house, waking up early every morning to raise the American flag. He knew the American flag was important to his grandfather, but it wasn’t until he became a service member did he connect how much the American flag means to veterans.
His grandfather joined the military at 15 in WWII. He was wounded twice in combat, eventually landing in a hospital shared with the Belgian resistance, where he met his wife.
Though 1SG Livingston has never been to Belgium, he feels a strong connection to the country of his grandmother. He recalled rooting for the Belgium team at the World Cup last year. And even though almost 4,000 miles and a time difference separated them, he felt connected to the other Belgium fans cheering in the bleachers, waving the Belgium flag.
Because flags do that, they help us identify one another. They show us what we have in common. They give us something to rally around.
1SG Livingston produced a guidon, a long pole baring the 119th’s military standard on it. It has a spike on one end where it can be placed in the ground and an arrowhead on the other end. This guidon he explained originally was carried on horseback in battle, held high in the air, and it showed the soldiers where the commander was, allowing them to reorganize, get instructions, and information if they needed it. Today it is still placed outside of the post to signify that the commander is in. It signifies that this is a safe place to be. These are your people, your resources, etc.
As he closed his presentation, 1SG Livingston urged the audience to get their flag out, whether that be literal or symbolic. What are you going to present to the world? What is important to you?
As he exited the stage, the children at the event were invited to share stories about the veterans in their lives.
They spoke about their parents, their brothers, their grandfathers. All of them thankful for the service and sacrifices of their family members and grateful that because of those sacrifices, they are able to be at the National Home.
Happy Veterans Day!