Veterans Day at Walter L. Fox Post 2: Being a veteran is ‘the greatest reward’

DOVER — U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. (Retired) Dennis Desilet had his keynote speech all prepared and placed neatly in a folder for the Walter L. Fox Post 2 Veterans Day Ceremony on Monday morning.

However, those prepared pages never made it out of that folder, as Mr. Desilet looked out at the large crowd that had gathered to honor the military veterans and their service to the country.

“As I reflected about what I would say and how I would do this, I had a thought in mind about what I wanted to talk about,” Mr. Desilet said. “But standing up here and watching the colors be presented and to watch a World War II veteran up front in the second row snap a salute worthy of an 18-year-old Marine, I thought, ‘That’s what being a veteran is.’

“He doesn’t have to think how to do it, his body just knows how to do it.”

Mr. Desilet noted there are more than 78,000 veterans in Delaware, including 20,000 in Kent County, 36,000 in New Castle County and 22,000 in Sussex County. There are 8,000 women veterans in the state.

“That’s enough to fill a football stadium, or a Walmart, or a Wawa on race weekend,” he said, with a laugh. “Here’s a statistic that kind of shocks me, almost half — 36,000 veterans in Delaware — are over the age of 65.

“But numbers only tell part of the story — veterans tell the rest. The stories of lives are in this room. The stories of lives well-lived are all over the state. There are 78,000 vets (in Delaware) and there are probably 78,000 stories of service.”

Those stories, and lives, are what was being celebrated on Monday.

Saluting veterans’ service

Michael Windows, commander of Walter L. Fox Post No. 2, offered welcoming remarks at the ceremony following the posting of the colors, the National Anthem, a prayer, gun salute and Taps.

“On this Veterans Day we are commemorating the service of veterans of all wars,” Commander Windows said. “We remember how men and women set aside their civilian pursuits to serve their nation’s cause, defending the freedom of mankind and preserving our precious American heritage.

“We believe our strength on the field of battle … (fighting) our cause against the forces of evil. We believe our determination made us better warriors because we fought with our minds and our hearts as well as our bodies.”

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. (Retired) Dennis Desilet

He added, “We recognize service to our country and our cause does not end with the termination of military service. We continue our endeavor on behalf of a powerful world peace, where feeling of profound gratitude to God, and to the men and women who gave their lives as part of the cause.”

Tammy Hull, service officer for Walter L. Fox Post No. 2, said all veterans have built a common bond they developed throughout years of service to their country.

“The curse of war follows among those who wear the same uniform, no matter how they may differ in race, creed or culture,” she said. “Those who fight together, suffer together to achieve a common end. In the similarity of the battle deaths, there is a common denominator, a common purpose, the sharing of danger and suffering, which brings in time of war a tolerance which adds strength to the cause.

“As we put aside the brown, blue and green (uniforms) that made us one people on the battlefield, we can hold in our minds the tolerance that we have achieved. In tolerance, there is progress and progress toward a better and happier world.”

Airman delivers remarks

While several others at Monday’s ceremony provided inspiring remarks regarding Veterans Day, it was CMSgt. Desilet who captivated the audience with his impromptu speech, including stories often made with a twist of humor.

Even though he chose to set his prepared remarks aside, there was never a moment of dead air while he stood behind the podium saluting veterans and their family members.

Mr. Desilet, who joined the Air Force in 1979, retired from active service on Dec. 1, 2005. He served as the First Sergeant of the 436th Maintenance Squadron at Dover Air Force Base

As a first sergeant, he was principal advisor to the commander for all matters concerning the health, morale, welfare and discipline for nearly 540 maintenance professionals.

“I served because I knew there was something more for me,” he said, “and I’m a veteran because I was surrounded by people who showed me the way.

“Being a veteran means being a part of something bigger, something that means something. We join the military because we’re seeking something, and we become veterans not because we went in to be a veteran, but we become veterans because there’s still that bond.”

Mr. Desilet said many people join the military because it “is the family business,” or they want to see the world and serve their country.

He said many don’t realize the type of camaraderie they will develop over time that will stay with them long after they retire from active duty.

“What they don’t tell you is you will meet some of the most amazing Americans you have ever known,” Mr. Diselet said. “They don’t tell you that you will be surrounded by people who would give their life for you even though you may not look like them.

“They will also not tell you that serving in the military is one of the hardest things with the greatest reward that we could ever get.”

CSMSgt Disilet has come to know that now. After all, he is a veteran — one of more than 78,000 in Delaware.

 

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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