Events shed light on veterans groups and the patriots they serve
From sea to shining sea, the United States stands as a beacon of freedom from the tyrannies, injustices and inequalities that exist in lands not as fortunate as ours. Yet through our imperfect history and turmoil that arises from our many differences—political, racial, gender, geographical and otherwise—the peaceful transition of power remains a staple of American democracy.
At noon on Jan. 20, our nation continued this tradition as Donald J. Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., placed his left hand on the Lincoln Bible and raised his right hand to take the oath of office and be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
“It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget,” President Trump said during his inaugural address, “that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.”
After the president’s speech, DAV joined in the day’s events—just as it has done when requested by other presidential administrations of the past century—to show our newly elected leaders that disabled veterans and the various issues they face are represented by our organization.
DAV National Commander Dave Riley and his wife, Yvonne; National Interim Legislative Committee member Jim Procunier; Maryland Chapter 1 Adjutant Chuck Linton; DAV Department of Maryland Past Commander Lamarr Couser and Virginia Chapter 10 1st Junior Vice Commander Layton Lamphere represented the organization by marching down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol grounds to the White House during the inaugural parade.
Riley, the first quadruple amputee to serve as DAV National Commander, rode his motorized scooter for a majority of the procession and, upon approaching the president’s reviewing stand, opted to walk the rest of the way so he could render a proper salute to the new commander in chief.
“What an exhilarating experience,” remarked Riley. “To see all those faces along that parade route and to see all the kids waving American flags, it was really patriotic. It somehow made me even more proud to be an American.”
Later in the evening, Riley attended the Vettys Presidential Inaugural Ball and Awards, hosted by the Academy of United States Veterans. The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which is located in Washington, D.C., was honored with a Veterans Community Award for its extraordinary quality of public service, advocacy efforts, contribution and outstanding service to the veterans community. Dennis Joyner, President of the Disabled Veterans’ Life Memorial Foundation, accepted the award. Also in attendance were DAV National Adjutant Marc Burgess, Past National Commanders Rob Reynolds and Dick Marbes, and Lois Pope, a major contributor and prominent philanthropist who was instrumental in building the memorial.
“When veterans become ill or injured as a result of their service, their entire lives are changed,” said Joyner. “It takes a community—families, friends, fellow veterans—to help that veteran recover and learn how to live their new normal. It was my community that helped me on my road to recovery, and that’s why we wanted to create the memorial. It’s an honor to accept this Veterans Community Award on behalf of the Memorial and our community of veterans’ advocates.”
The evening culminated with the Veterans Inaugural Ball—Salute to Heroes. The black-tie event was organized by the Veterans Inaugural Committee, which includes DAV and 14 other congressionally chartered veterans service organizations. The ball featured a special performance by Rascal Flatts lead vocalist Gary LeVox and was emceed by “The Price is Right” host and comedian Drew Carey, who served in the Marine Corps Reserve. Guests included senior military officers, elected and government officials, celebrities, corporate citizens and other members of the armed forces. The evening also featured 34 Medal of Honor recipients, nearly half of the recipients alive today. DAV honored the same group of men the prior evening at the DAV Medal of Honor Reception.
Newly sworn-in Vice President Mike Pence paid tribute to the Medal of Honor recipients at the ball.
“I am very humbled to be in your presence,” Pence said. “We honor those of you in the room, and those who have come before and have gone above and beyond. You are an inspiration to all of us. And I know you are an inspiration to our new president.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan also extended his thanks to veterans and service members.
“The reason we can have a peaceful transition of power is because of you,” said Ryan. “Please know that we will never forget who keeps the peace. To all of our veterans and all of our service members, I simply want to say thank you.”