CLEARFIELD – An annual service was held to honor veterans Saturday morning on the front lawn of the Clearfield American Legion John Lewis Shade Post No. 6.
The invocation and benediction was given by the Rev. Robert Way of the St. John’s Lutheran Church of Clearfield. He was a pastor in Shanksville, Pa., when Flight 93 crashed into a field there Sept. 11, 2001.
The National Anthem, along with other patriotic musical selections, was performed at the service by members of the Clearfield Bison Marching Band. The service also included playing “to the colors,” flag and wreath of flowers presentations and a military salute with taps.
Major General Laurel J. Hummel, a native of Clearfield, was the guest speaker for the ceremony. She commended the marching band on its performance, noting she was the second chair first trumpet 40 years ago.
She now lives in Anchorage, Alaska, and serves at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, where there are currently about 14,000 troops in the area.
She said there are “a lot of good deals” in the economy for the soldiers. A year ago, she was standing in the line at the grocery store and couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two women ahead of her.
The first woman commented that “I really don’t get what is so special about veterans.” She said their jobs weren’t any different than her own, adding they earn good money, have free health care and expect “all kinds of special treatment.”
The second woman agreed, chiming in that: “Yeah and they get to retire after only 20 years.” The first woman said veterans get “a sweet deal” with “free money” for the rest of their lives and new careers when they are 40 years old.
The conversation concluded with the second woman making the comment that all of the perks for veterans were paid for by the American taxpayers.
After giving their conversation some thought, Hummel developed an understanding of their perspective. Today, she said military life is far easier than it was for Washington’s troops in the Continental Army in 1776.
She said many military jobs are clerical and administrative, and those inherently unsafe are mitigated to reduce risks. She said if the women in the grocery store paid federal taxes, they were helping pay the bill for all of it.
However, Hummel said the women forgot one important difference between civilians and service members and veterans. Military members, she said, are willing to sacrifice their lives – everything they have – for their country.
“We will die for our fellow Americans in order to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” she said. “Military people are 100 percent full tilt, all-in committed. We have pledged to give everything and we will do anything when we are called to.”
Hummel said service members never know when that call will come. But when it does come, she said they don’t hesitate and will go into harm’s way anywhere in the world for however long.
“I stand here in my field uniform, and feel it’s appropriate. We are an army at war,” she said, “and we have been for 16 years. We have many soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have deployed, deployed and deployed and spent years away from their families and away from safety.”
Hummel went on to say, “Land or sea, we go and some of us may die. Anyone who has worn a uniform – the cloth of our nation – understands and accepts that we share a powerful common bond that most other people will never be able to comprehend.
“So veterans among us your commitment and willingness to pay what President Lincoln called the ‘last full measure of devotion,’ makes you a national treasure. You absolutely reflect the best of this nation. You set the standard for American citizenship.”
She concluded by saying veterans earn and deserve every benefit, including the Veterans Day holiday. She said veterans were heroes, and they should “never doubt that for one moment.”
Hummel is the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA).
As the adjutant general, she is the senior military advisor to the governor of the State of Alaska and commander of the Alaska National Guard, responsible for overseeing the training and readiness of 4,100 soldiers and airmen.
She also oversees the Alaska State Defense Force, the Alaska Naval Militia, homeland security and emergency management, veterans’ affairs and the Alaska Military Youth Academy.
Hummel is the official liaison between the state and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and all military forces in Alaska.
Hummel is the daughter of Gay Hummel and the late Sergeant First Class Gordon E. Hummel.
She commissioned into the Military Intelligence Corps in 1982 and served 30 years on active duty in a variety of intelligence assignments within the 18th Airborne Corps in Korea and in Alaska.
As a tenured professor of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, she then taught cadets, led faculty and developed curriculum at West Point.
As a geographer with expertise in political demography and the geographical roots of terrorism, she served as policy consultant to the Defense Intelligence Agency and other organizations.
She joined several missions in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
First, Hummel was an advisor for a program using social and environmental science to help commanders in the field better understand cultural conditions and make smarter decisions. Then, she was twice an advisor to the leaders of the National Military Academy of Afghanistan.