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Veteran’s Day is an opportunity each year to reflect on the service, contributions, and sacrifices of those who honored our country by wearing a military uniform. Whether serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, Team Orlando News expresses our profound gratitude for the service and the burdens undertaken by all who’ve protected and defended our democracy and freedoms.
In profiling a representation of veterans, a theme emerged. Those who’ve selflessly served our nation in uniform continue to serve in civilian life. As we celebrate these brave service members, we also celebrate them as citizens. Here, in their own words, current and former service members describe the importance of Veterans Day and how military service impacted their lives.
There is no greater way to show our gratitude than to offer a venue for these voices. To these veterans and all others who have served and are serving, Happy Veterans Day.
Mike Phillips, U.S. Navy
Senior Chief Michael C. Phillips, TDCS, USN (Retired) was part of a small cadre in the Navy known as “Training Device Men”. TDs were highly skilled active-duty military that served in critical technical support positions in front-line simulators. Additionally, Mike served a long and distinguished career in the MS&T industry and continued to make personal contributions in training programs of national importance. His career in MS&T spanned everything from the Link “Blue Box” instrument trainer, ejection seat trainers, the A-7 Corsair II and the very complex B-2 Spirit.
Mike Phillips has continued to inspire the citizens of Central Florida with his dedication to community service through his dedication, vision, and leadership. He spearheaded the Lone Sailor Navy Memorial to honor our Navy training legacy in Orlando, which spanned more than 10 years from concept to dedication.
“Veterans Day honors those men and women who served honorably, regardless of how long. It reminds us of the sacrifices made in the past and inspires us to serve higher goals in the future.”
Jacob Gregoire, U.S. Marine Corps
Private First Class Jacob Gregoire graduated July 30, 2021, as a Marine from Parris Island. He graduated from Clermont South Lake High on June 12, 2020, during the COVID epidemic. After a year of uncertainty, he enlisted in the USMC to provide discipline, direction, and opportunity. He found what he was missing and inspired others. His achievements had a profound influence on the 22 family members and friends that attended this USMC ceremony. He inspired his cousin, Alexander Gregoire, to join ROTC a week before his Freshman year at Merritt Island High School.
During the 13-week boot camp and the crucible, he shared numerous stories where he proudly helped his fellow recruits succeed and become Marines. He is a selfless Marine in the US Military.
“I have never been so proud to be an American and witness the accomplishments these men and women. This is one of many reasons that Americans need to celebrate all military families on Veteran’s Day. We need to reflect on what our veterans have given, currently give, and will continue to give to secure human freedoms and God-given rights.”
Daila Espeut-Jones, U.S. Army
Only one percent of Americans join the U.S. military, so to be part of this unique organization meant the world to me and has a profound impact on my life both personal and professional, said Jones. She enlisted in the Army at 17 and the military molded her into the woman she is today. The “Be All You Can Be In The Army” slogan stuck with Jones throughout her military career. It helped her gain the strength and will to achieve everything that was attainable during her career.
Jones recalls that the military taught her about leadership.
“One of the most important things I will always cherish is how the military taught me to be an effective leader that others could emulate,” said Jones. “With leadership came honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, and ethics and I’ve also applied these values in my everyday life beyond the military.”
“Veterans Day is important because it is a day Americans pay tribute to those who are serving or served in the U.S. Armed Forces. So many service members were wounded in action, held prisoner of war, or were killed in action. For the blank check these men and women wrote, America owes its veterans respect and gratitude on November 11 and every other day.”
Cliff Ingari, U.S. Air Force
Cliff Ingari began his modeling, training, and simulation career in 1983 serving in the United States Air Force where he trained F-4D and F-16 pilot flight instruction and tactics. He was involved in the development of the F-14D Fighter Weapons School “Top Gun” training program, the A-6E, the Apache helicopter simulation program and the Close Combat Tactical Trainers (CCTT) program.
Cliff has a passion for entrepreneurship and finds opportunities to serve veterans in the local Orlando business and academic communities with mentorship, coaching and guest speaking. He has served as a Business Coach to numerous companies under the Rollins Business Accelerator (RBA) Program, and as a mentor to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs under a 10-week Startup Quest® Entrepreneurial Training Program, a Workforce Innovation Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Cliff also participated in the Camaraderie Foundation’s Mentor/Protégé program where he had the honor of mentoring a United States Marine Corps Veteran.
“Our military service members and their families endure everyday hardships and still manage to set an example for all of us. They understand the values of unity, camaraderie, faith, bravery, and selfless service. And when their military service is done, I am in awe of the example they set as citizens as they bring these values to civilian life. They continue to serve their communities as they did their country.”
Wilson Ariza, U.S. Army
Lieutenant Colonel Wilson Ariza has always had a passion for helping others. His 25 years of military service provided an opportunity for him to contribute to medical simulation training programs, and to deploy the training. The experiences he had as a Soldier in uniform gave him an enduring passion to make a difference in training, medical simulation, and health care.
During his time at Combat Casualty Care (MC4) from 2004-2006, for the first time in US History, he and his team deployed an electronic medical record to the battlefield during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. This innovative software suite allowed the Army to improve battlefield healthcare by accessing comprehensive electronic medical records for forward deployed Service Members.
“I am forever grateful for our accomplishments to improve medical training that has saved lives and helped our service members return to their families,” said Ariza.
“Veterans Day is important to me because I know the personal sacrifice the men and women (and their families) make when they serve our Country. They all deserve our respect and honor every day, but on Veterans Day we are all called to recognize these individuals past and present.”
Judy “Carol” Spicer, U.S. Army
Corporal Carol Spicer joined the Army at 17 and believes it was the best decision she ever made. Spicer came from a poor family where a college education was not feasible. She was the first in her family to graduate high school. Joining the Army, completing her MBA and taking a few classes toward her PhD made her family enormously proud.
After serving in the Army for four years, Spicer continued to help warfighters by participating in the provision of training devices and simulators over the last 35 years.
“Our Nation has lost so many loved ones to War, but on Veterans Day people come together as a united nation to honor past and present military members. Everyone is a part of this special day. I am thankful to be a part of this great Nation and the opportunity to shake as many Veteran’s hands as possible to show my gratefulness for all that they gave.”
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