By Kenny Anderson
Director Multi-Cultural Affairs
City of Huntsville
The fact that Veterans Day is a national holiday is itself a testament to the significance of the honorable service rendered by thousands of men and women who have served in the armed forces.
Whether having fought on the battleground at Gettysburg, the beaches of Normandy, a Vietnamese jungle or an Iraqi desert, November 11 stands as a monument to the bravery, courage and strength of those who stand on the wall in the quest to preserve the freedoms that civilians cherish.
I’ve never served myself, but I am proud to have family members who have, and I’m filled with pride knowing that they represent a special group of people that are worthy of our praise.
My dad, Jack Anderson, served with distinction in the U.S. Army in World War II for three years. My dad was one of those quiet heroes who never talked about his time in the military, but knew he was a better person because of his service. I always loved the fact that my Dad was part of that number who fought to preserve our democracy.
Six of my second cousins also served during World War II, including 2nd Lt. Samuel Leftenant and his sister, Major Nancy Leftenant-Colon. Sam was an original Tuskegee Airman whose P-51 Mustang went down over Austria during a bomber escort and was never seen again. He was posthumously awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart. On January 14, 2016, I was fortunate to attend a full military honors memorial service for Sam at Arlington National Cemetery along with his surviving sisters. It was a phenomenal experience and well-deserved.
Sam’s sister Nancy also served in the U.S. Army during World War II with distinction. Nancy became the first Black woman in the regular Army Nurse Corps, the only woman to become president of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and has been inducted into the Long Island Air & Space Hall of Fame.
My first cousin Arthur was drafted and served in Vietnam where he was shot on the battlefield, and my nephew and namesake, Kenny Johnson served in the U.S. Army for a short period of time. There are many others who have been part of the vanguard of armed services members, including chaplains, medical personnel, specialists and more, and Veterans Day is the perfect time to hail them as heroes. A famous line from the military movie “A Few Good Men” starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson was spoken by Nicholson’s character, “You want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.” Thank you to all of our veterans who have stood on that wall!