More than 50 Lawrence Township residents gathered to honor the veterans who fought in wars and conflicts – from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan – on Veterans Day.
At exactly 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, Col. (U.S. Army Retired) Robert Watson, the commander of the 112th Field Artillery Association, welcomed the attendees who had gathered in front of the Lawrence Township Municipal Building.
Veterans Day honors the men and women who served in the armed forces for their commitment, sacrifices and professionalism, Watson said.
Watson called on the Lawrence Township Police Department’s color guard to “post the colors” – the United States flag, the State of New Jersey flag and the Lawrence Township flag.
The Lawrence Ewing Trenton Girl Scouts led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Jenni Bee sang the National Anthem.
Township Councilman Michael Powers delivered the invocation. He called on the attendees to not forget what the military service members have done to keep peace around the world.
Guest speaker Terrod McCallum thanked the attendees for coming to the ceremony. He thanked the veterans who served and sacrificed so others would not have to do so.
McCallum, who is a Lawrence Township police officer and U.S. Army veteran, explained in six words what a veteran means to him – “honor, courage, respect, discipline and selfless service.”
“It is a feeling or a calling that a person possesses. The call to protect someone that you have never met or to stand for an idea they believe in is what a veteran means to me,” he said.
McCallum said he did not join the military for fame or glory. He joined to bring honor to his family’s name and to serve and protect the American way of life.
McCallum joined the New Jersey Army National Guard in 2008. After one year, he chose to transition to the active duty component of the U.S. Army.
He was stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., for the next three years and that’s where he learned what it truly meant to serve his country, he said.
“It meant getting up at 5 a.m. It meant participating in physical training, whether it was hot, cold, raining or even snowing,” he said.
“It meant performing his job and completing the mission, McCallum said. There was no option to call in sick or to perform a mission half-way because he was tired or had a bad day at home.
“The person to my left or right, the person sitting at home eating dinner with their family needed me to perform my best.”
McCallum was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. His unit’s mission was convoy security, which meant its objective was to deliver supplies and equipment all over the country to the soldiers.
“I was a mechanic/recovery specialist, which meant I drove a really big tow truck and recovered vehicles that were damaged or disabled,” he said.
The vehicle may have been struck by an IED – an improvised explosive device – or had sustained heavy damage and could not continue to be driven.
“While I was deployed, I learned what sacrifices a veteran truly goes through. I also learned how to put all the training and perseverance the military had taught me to the test,” McCallum said.
After he left the Army, McCallum said he wanted a career that mirrored the values and beliefs that the military had taught him. He chose to become a police officer.
“Police officers are courageous in the face of danger,” McCallum said. “They have discipline and respect for the people they serve, and they put the needs of the community ahead of their own needs.
“I felt the traits of a veteran are the same as those of a police officer. I am proud to be a veteran and I am proud to be a Lawrence Township police officer.”
After McCallum concluded his speech, he and Watson placed a wreath at the Mercer County World War I memorial in front of the Lawrence Township Municipal Building. It lists the names of Mercer County residents who were killed in World War I.
Wrapping up the Veterans Day ceremony, Jenni Bee sang “God Bless America” and encouraged the attendees to join her in singing it.
The cannon crew of the 112th Field Artillery Association fired off a military salute from their howitzer cannon, borrowed from the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey on Eggerts Crossing Road.