Thursday, November 11 is Veterans Day, a time when the nation pauses to honor those who have served the nation.
Dr Harold C. Sayles, who was elected over the summer as the 122nd National Foreign War Veterans Chaplain, plans to commemorate the day by attending the 65th annual Commonwealth Veterans Day ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial at 621 S. Belvidere St. downtown.
The 11 a.m. ceremony, to be held outside at the Memorial’s E. Bruce Heilman Amphitheater, will feature keynote speaker Kathleen T. Jabs, acting secretary of veterans and defense affairs of Virginia.
Patriotic music will be provided by the 380th Army Band, the preparatory choir of the Benedictine College and the bagpipes of Benedictine and the Legion of St. Andrew.
In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held indoors in the Veterans Room in the Memorial’s C. Kenneth Wright Pavilion and seating will be limited.
Veterans Day is important to Dr. Sayles, an Army veteran who served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Operation Urgent Fury during the 1983 invasion of Grenada, as is the recognition of the veterans and their service to the nation. Many veterans returning from Vietnam have not had a warm response, he notes.
He offers this advice to residents of the Richmond area who wish to honor veterans and commemorate this day: âIf you know a veteran, just thank them for their service. It means a lot to them. “
In his new national role, Dr Sayles is charged with overseeing “spiritual matters” for the VFW, which is committed to standing up for all veterans and serving over 1.5 million members in nearly 6,000 positions. It serves
as an advisor to VFW chaplains within the organization, in the United States and overseas, and serves on special committees devoted to managing issues such as mental health and suicide prevention.
He’s already busy working on what he identifies as his main goal during his one-year tenure: to raise awareness among Gulf War veterans about suicide and provide assistance. He wants to establish a training program to help people identify and refer veterans struggling with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts to resources where they can find an open mind and an open hand.
âWhile (some veterans) may look good from the outside, we need to talk to them to see how they are feeling, to talk to them and to let them know that there is help for them. They are our heroes, âhe said.
A native of Los Angeles, Dr. Sayles comes from a family of veterans.
âWe have been taught that service to your nation should be part of your life’s journey,â he says.
He served 11 years in active duty and later in the US Army Reserve. He joined the VFW in 1988 while working in Germany.
With so little time to do so much work, he is aware of the challenges and increasingly eager to do his job to the best of his ability.
âThere are so many things I would love to do, but you only have one year to get started, reach your goal and make a difference,â says Dr. Sayles. “With so little time, you have to stay focused on your goal.”
Meet a Veterans Advocate, National Leader and this week’s personality, Dr. Harold C. Sayles:
1st volunteer position: National Chaplain for Veterans of the Foreign Wars of the United States.
Occupation: Executive Director of the Crater District Area Agency on Aging.
Date and place of birth: August 1 in Los Angeles.
Where I live now: Henrico County.
Education: BA in Sociology / Psychology, San Diego State University; Masters of Public Administration, Duke University; and Ph.D., American University.
Family: wife, Dr Cheryl Sayles, MD; three daughters, Joy, Jemise and Jasmine; and one son, Jovon.
Veterans of Foreign Wars, or VFWs, are: The largest veterans services organization for veterans. With over 1.5 million members and 5,923 positions, our mission is to foster camaraderie among American veterans of conflicts abroad. Our mission is to serve our veterans, the military and our communities and to defend the interests of all veterans. “No one is doing it for veterans anymore” is our motto.
What led me to serve in the military: I come from a long line of military personnel. My father and his two brothers served in WWII and in Korea. My mother’s two brothers served, one in Korea and the other in Vietnam. I served, my brother and a sister served in the army. We have been taught that service to your nation should be a part of your life journey.
Military recognition: I received the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, five Army Medals of Honor, the Joint Service Medal of Praise, as well as the Combat Infantry Badge, the Badge of expert infantry, master parachutist, Canadian and Belgian jump wings, and many other service awards. . I have been voted veteran of the year five times for the VFW department of Virginia. And last year, I was the 4th Congressional District Veteran of the Year, sponsored by Congressman A. Donald McEachin.
When and where I first joined VFW: I joined the VFW in 1988 in Bamberg, Germany, while living there and working for the US Department of the Army. Currently I am a member of VFW Post 10654 located in Richmond.
When and where elected VFW National Chaplain: I was nominated by the Southern Conference, which brings together the 14 states in our region, and then elected at the 122nd National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, July 31 through August 3.
Reaction during the election: I was very excited but humbled, while my fellow students have the confidence and faith that I can get the job done.
Responsibilities and duties of the national chaplain: Oversee spiritual matters for VFW, as well as serve on special committees such as suicide prevention and mental health issues. I am also an advisor to over 6,000 state and post chaplains in the United States, Europe and the Pacific Islands.
Objective n Â° 1 as national chaplain: Raise awareness of how many of our veterans who served in the Gulf Wars commit suicide, let them know that they are not alone and that we are here to help them.
What I bring to this role which differs from previous chaplains: I am of a new breed, the younger version of the VFW. Other chaplains were much older and from the era of WWII or Vietnam veterans. I come with a younger vision and a process of thinking about the emerging future of VFW.
How the pandemic is affecting my role as national chaplain: The pandemic has greatly hampered my role as hospital visits are very limited. Many meetings are now conducted through Zoom and access to Veterans Service Groups is also very limited. But we walk and do what we can, when we can. The veteran and his needs are what we are here for.
A perfect day for me is: There are no perfect days, but all we can do is do our best and try to make the next day even better.
Three daily self-care tips: Prayer, meditation and a good meal.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I love old TV shows like “Sanford And Son”, “M * ASH âandâ The Andy Griffith Show. âPeople would never believe that I watch these shows.
Quote from which I am inspired: I actually live by two quotes from two of my heroes: âA life is not important except in the impact it has on others. – Jackie Robinson; and âService to others is the rent you pay for your room on Earth. – Muhammad Ali.
My friends describe me as: Funny and laid back.
At the top of my “to-do” list: Do chores that I don’t get the chance to do on a regular basis, like cleaning the garage and things of that nature.
Best late night snack: Pretzels or ice cream.
The best thing my parents ever taught me: Whatever you do for a living, do the best you can. If you dig a ditch, be the best ditch digger. If you mop the floor, be proud of the work you do. Don’t do it for rewards or rewards; do it because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
Person who influenced me the most: My dad, on how to be a compassionate man who isn’t afraid to show his emotions. My mom, on how to take care of yourself, from cooking and washing clothes to housekeeping and sewing. And both of how you should serve others.
Book that marked me the most: “Who moved my cheese?” by Dr Spencer Johnson.
What I’m reading now: “A Promised Land” by Former President Obama.
Next goal: To establish a training program to help people identify and refer Veterans who have mental health issues or are having thoughts of suicide. About 20 veterans die by suicide every day. It must stop and we must help our veterans get the help they need.