Celebrating a century of service

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DAV returns to organization’s birthplace to mark 100 years of service and honor veterans

“We had a common experience which bound us together. And we ought to continue through an organization of our own—an organization of us, by us and for us.”

These words spoken by DAV founder Judge Robert S. Marx after World War I are now inscribed on the wall outside the entrance of the organization’s national headquarters in Erlanger, Kentucky. They serve as a reminder of DAV’s establishment in 1920 as well as the unbroken and everlasting bond between its more than 1 million members.

In late September, DAV celebrated its century of service to America’s disabled veterans and their families while officially dedicating its new headquarters. The celebration included an event at Cincinnati Music Hall, which sits next door to the site of the organization’s founding, the city’s Memorial Hall.

Featuring donated performances from the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and United States Military Academy Cadet Glee Club, the event included songs that represented America’s armed conflicts in the more than 100 years since DAV’s founding.

The celebration was hosted by Craig McKee, an Air Force veteran and renowned Cincinnati news anchor, and “American Idol” alum Melinda Doolittle. It opened with “Cincinnatus Fanfare,” which John Morris Russell, conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, noted was in homage to Rome’s citizen soldiers, for whom Cincinnati is named. A rendition of “Over There” represented World War I; “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” connected with World War II; the theme from “M*A*S*H” represented Korea; and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” represented Vietnam. “Beautiful City” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” rounded out the Gulf War and post-9/11 wars.

“When we perform something like the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ it really tells the story of America,” said Russell. “It tells the story of what democracy and what this nation is really about.”

Other patriotic songs, including “God Bless America,” “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” “America the Beautiful,” “Taps” and a medley of each military branch’s official songs, were also sprinkled throughout the evening.

“Music is so important. It energizes. It motivates. It is a morale booster as well,” said Russell. “And when we hear this music, we don’t only just hear the tune and the harmonies behind it, but we also hear the meaning that was put into that music when it was written.”

Some of the most powerful moments of the night, however, came during interludes between performances, when disabled veterans shared their individual experiences in the military and how DAV has helped them and their brothers- and sisters-in-arms during their life after service.

The group included National Commander Andy Marshall, an Army veteran of Vietnam and two-time Purple Heart recipient; Past National Commander Dennis Joyner, an Army veteran of Vietnam and combat-wounded triple amputee; Greg Gadson, an Army veteran who lost both of his legs in Iraq; and Centra “Ce-Ce” Mazyck, an Army veteran who was paralyzed during a training jump with the 82nd Airborne Division.

During her monologue, Mazyck spoke about the contributions of underrepresented groups and women in the military. She also shared how doctors told her she would never walk again after her accident. At the conclusion, Mazyck stood up and exclaimed, “There is nothing we cannot do.”

“That was probably one of the most powerful moments during such a solemn night full of reflection and celebration,” said Marshall. “It gave me goosebumps to not only see her determination and power but the resolve of so many others who make DAV what it is—the greatest veterans organization in the country.”

Mazyck’s remarks earned rousing applause, leading into Doolittle’s performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”

“I could not be more impressed by and appreciative of the Cincinnati Pops, West Point Glee Club and Melinda for their amazing contributions to the evening,” added Marshall.

“What our organization has done for so many for so long is the most impressive thing. It’s seldom we see that kind of longevity anymore, but it exists at DAV because of the many selfless souls inside and outside our ranks. And with God’s grace, our organization will continue helping countless more veterans achieve their personal victories in our next 100 years.”