Annual Gene Vance Jr. Day highlights service members on Armed Forces Day

MORGANTOWN — Going into its 8th year, Morgantown celebrated Gene Vance Jr. Day, as well as Armed Forces Day, Saturday at the Monongalia County Courthouse Square. The ceremony was emceed by Command Sergeant Major Dennis Riggs, who led a moment of silence at 11:11 a.m. that was observed at all Gene Vance Jr. Memorials worldwide.
Michael M.J. Minc, Gene’s brother-in-law and founder of the Gene Vance Jr. Foundation expressed his gratitude and appreciation for those who made the day possible.
“Since 9/11 we have been in a state of perpetual war. Less than 1% of Americans deployed around the world are expected to shoulder the entire responsibility of protecting and suffering the hardship of defending our way of life,” Minc said.
Minc said the ceremony was not meant only to pay tribute to Gene, but all service men and women who gave their lives defending America’s freedom.
“We must now step up and heal the wounded. Not just today, but for a lifetime,” said Minc.
Command Sergeant Major James D. Jones of the West Virginia Army National Guard offered words from Gov. Jim Justice, along with his own. He spoke about how the military has changed significantly since 9/11, and how so many veterans continue to fight for the security of the nation.
“As I look around the crowd I see many great veterans and attendants. Understand that everything that we have built today is because of what you’ve provided for us. Thank you for that,” he said.
Morgantown Police Chief Edward Preston, who is a Marine Corps veteran, was in New York City on 9/11. He spoke of increased suicide rates for veterans and first responders. He said, oftentimes, the most serious injuries to those who serve are to the mind and heart. He implored the crowd to be there for those who might be suffering.
“We’re still losing lives on the battlefield, but the battlefield is inside the heart,” he said.
Other commemorations came from Jerry L. Wood of WVU Veterans and Military Programs, who gifted Gene’s family with a hat from the university.
Delegate Barbara Fleischuer, a representative from Joe Manchin’s office and Delegate Evan Hansen also made remarks. The ceremony ended with the reading of the names of the West Virignia fallen, and a wreath-laying by Morgantown Mayor Bill Kawecki and chapters of the local National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

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