Thank a Veteran This Week
Riderwood, the Erickson Living retirement community in Silver Spring, just concluded its 2nd Annual Veterans Expo.
The event was an opportunity to say “thank you” to men and women who have served our nation in the armed forces. It also connected veterans with advocacy organizations such as the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, the Maryland Veterans Commission, the Maryland Retired Veterans Task Force and the Military Officers Association of America.
The community was pleased to have leaders such as Cpt. David Peterson, a Maryland Veterans Commission member, and Harvey Kaplan, Ret. Col., a Board Member of the MRVTF, as guest speakers. Our own Chip Warner, executive director of Riderwood and a veteran of the United States Navy, offered welcome remarks to residents and guests.
Students from the Junior ROTC program of John F. Kennedy High School presented the Colors.
For me, it was an opportunity to meet veterans and learn about their lives. Fortunately, I immediately ran into Leroy Gardner, a resident of Riderwood for eight years and the first to set foot in Maryland Hall.
Gardner enlisted in the United States Army and served three years during the Korean War. He was stationed in Japan and eventually received orders to go to Korea in late 1952 for the Army Security Agency.
Only fifteen miles front the front line, Gardner decoded signals and sent intelligence to the Army headquarters, providing the military leadership with key targets and troop movements of the enemy.
That experience fostered his professional career. Upon returning to the United States, he worked for the National Security Agency for 32 years, calling Silver Spring home.
“I am still very proud to have served in the Army,” described Gardner. “I think about all the guys with whom I served side by side and it was truly an honor to get to know them throughout my life.”
For example, he exchanged Christmas cards with one of the cooks in his unit who was affectionately known as the “Food Spoiler.”
In retirement, Mr. Gardner remains very active, volunteering at the National Archives in College Park.
He thinks that today’s military men and women “do a marvelous job. I’m very proud of them, and in fact, my niece’s son just enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.”
With Veterans Day approaching on Tuesday, Nov. 11, I asked Gardner about his plans. “I’ll attend a ceremony on the campus of Riderwood with fellow residents, and I’ll send a few emails to veterans I know around the country.”
Mainly, though, it will be a time of reflection for Gardner.
“I’m thankful for this nation and what it has always stood for,” he said.
I’d encourage everyone to meet a veteran like Gardner in the next few days. You’ll be inspired by their sense of duty and love of country. And it’s a great opportunity to simply say thank you…
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” –John Fitzgerald Kennedy
“Our liberties, our values, all for which America stands, is safe today because brave men and women have been ready to face the fire at freedom’s front.” –Ronald Reagan