Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Veterans: ‘The Solid-steel Backbone of Our Nation’
Four short days after the polarized climate of Virginia’s General Election on Nov. 7, communities in Fairfax County, the Commonwealth, and the United States came together on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2023. They did so to “honor the generations of women and men who have served and sacrificed — not for a person, a place, or a president — but for an idea unlike any other: the idea of the United States of America.” Signed by Joseph R. Biden Jr, “A Proclamation on Veterans Day, 2023.
“We honor the incredible faith that our veterans hold, not just in our country but in all of us. They are the solid-steel backbone of our nation, and we must endeavor to continue being worthy of their sacrifices by working toward a more perfect union and protecting the freedoms that they have fought to defend,” Biden said in the Proclamation.
In the Town of Herndon, members of the Wayne M. Kidwell American Legion Post 184 members started their day’s observance at dawn. They raised 65 casket flags in an Avenue of Flags at Herndon's Chestnut Grove Cemetery to honor fallen veterans. At 11 that morning, the Post held a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial on the Town Green in the rear of the Herndon Municipal Center, 777 Lynn Street, Herndon.
The granite memorial stands 10 feet tall and weighs 5,000 pounds. The monument is a half-size replica of the obelisk at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Virginia, built in honor of the town's namesake, Capt. William Lewis Herndon.
Dave Womach, Post Commander, Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Army (Ret), welcomed members of the Herndon Town Council, residents, and others. Womach said that as he moves about the local community, he continues to run into veterans “doing great stuff.” While he usually doesn’t like to name veterans who continue to serve the community for fear of forgetting someone, Womach wanted to mention one veteran this time. He was to be the day’s speaker, but he was at home and sick, unable to come.
“Matt Lang is a veteran of the Marine Corps and Navy Reserves. Lang became a deputy sheriff in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, answering the call daily for many years,” said Womach. He told how Lang has run for office repeatedly and wanted to represent his local community in Richmond and continue to serve it.”
Lang ran for Virginia Senate against Jennifer Boysko.
“The outcome was different than he wanted this time around. But Matt’s call to serve still burns bright,” Womach said. Lang transferred his membership to Post 184, joining veterans like Lang who continue to “answer the call.” According to Womach, Post 184 chooses activities to support based on what they can do and what has a high impact for good in the community.
Stuart and Madeleine Gibson, recent transplants to Reston from Canada, talked with Mayor Sheila Olem of the Town of Herndon. The Gibsons were looking for a Veterans Day observance and found the one in Herndon.
Womach listed a few examples of what Post 184 has done in the Town of Herndon and surrounding communities, beginning with collecting American flags for proper retirement. In addition to receiving a couple of calls weekly, the Post’s main collection box is outside Moose Lodge on Center Street. “That dropbox is generally filled every month. And usually, about twice a year, we retire them,” said Womach.
Post 184’s charter Scout Troop 1570 helped coordinate efforts to incinerate retired flags properly with the assistance of Covanta.
Post 184 also conducts Memorial and Veterans Day ceremonies at a nearby senior facility that brings out 35–40 residents and their families.
Womach’s final example of how Post 184 supports the community based on what they can do and what has a high impact for good was the Avenue of Flags.
“Post 184 has been given over the years 65 American flags that at one point rested on the caskets of veterans. Twice a year, on Memorial Day and today on Veterans Day, we raise those flags, weather permitting. At 4 p.m., we will gather and fold up all the flags. That job of properly folding 65 American flags is a big one, but that’s where you can help this afternoon,” said Womach.