HANOVER -- “Veterans Day is a bit unique in Hanover. We don’t just celebrate on Nov. 11,” Parks and Recreation director Greg Sager told a packed house at the Hanover Veterans Memorial last week.
Remembering those who served and the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice has become an important tradition in Hanover. That dedication is highlighted twice annually on Veterans and Memorial Day, but the sense of appreciation is present year-round.
“It is Hanover’s tradition that we celebrate our veterans all year long and it is important to set aside specific time to come and reflect on the sacrifice of all of those who served and what they provide to our nation; and what their families give up when they are deployed,” Chickahominy supervisor Angela Kelly-Wiecek said following a poignant Veterans Day Ceremony on Monday, Nov. 11.
This year’s keynote speaker told the assembly that she was an unlikely candidate to become a combat warrior, but joined the Marines to escape her surroundings and seek a better career path.
“I knew we would go to war. I just didn’t know that I would be on the front line,” said retired Marine Sgt. Taniki Richard, who relayed her experience with Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit group that supports veterans who leave service with mental or other issues.
When Richard got her orders to report to Iraq, she assumed her role as a female would not include being in the line of fire service.
On a night mission after she arrived, her unit was attacked by enemy fire and she found herself “with hot rounds flying around.”
She returned home to a place that seemed distant.
“I came back to a life that I didn’t remember, a son that I wasn’t connected to with responsibilities that were withering away,” Richard said.
She realized something was not exactly right after her deployment and became “more detached and nightmares starting happening.”
She said she tried to bury the combat memories along with other difficult circumstances in her life and keep moving, but couldn’t rebound on her own.
“I couldn’t keep pretending and putting on a face like nothing was wrong with me,” Richard said. She eventually attempted suicide and entered a mental facility.
“I was missing something. I was missing the camaraderie,” Richard said.
That’s where the Wounded Warrior Project entered the picture and provided the services and support she needed.
“For the first time in a long time, I realized that was what I was missing — a place to belong, a place to be where I didn’t want to talk about what happened but I wanted someone to understand,” Richard said.
Wounded Warrior helped Richard with her transition and gave her the resources needed to help with her disability and begin her new journey.
Kelly-Wiecek said Richard’s message was an important and timely reminder.
“I would like everyone to know that today’s speaker’s remarks were very timely and very poignant to speak to other needs in our community, especially in terms of PTSD and mental health issues that we are seeing. I think that’s an important message and she is continuing to serve her nation in being so forthcoming about these issues,” Kelly-Wiecek said.
The annual event was sponsored by the Hanover County Veterans Memorial Committee and Parks and Recreation and emceed by chairman Jim Kickler.
The laying of the memorial wreath was conducted by Atlee High School JROTC Commander Col. Charles Schmetzer, USAF (Ret). He was escorted by American Legion Post 175 Commander Jim Legg and VFW Post 9808 Commander Ed Mann.
The Hanover County Sheriff’s Office provided an Honor Guard comprised of deputies who served in the Armed Forces.
The Hanover Veterans Memorial is open 365 days a year.