MANSFIELD -- Col. Troy Cramer looked at his audience inside AMVETS Post 26 on Monday morning and felt he was at home on Veterans Day.
"The great thing for all of us in this room, whether we know each other or not, it's days like this, when we come into a hall like this, we can say we're all brothers and sisters, just for the bond we have and the places we've been," Cramer said.
"Veterans Day is a day of honor and a day to honor, celebrating thanks to everyone who has worn a U.S. military uniform and their honorable service and for our freedom. So this means a tremendous amount to me to be here with you today, a truly humbling experience. I am honored to be here."
According to the U.S. Census bureau, there are 18 million military veterans in the United States, including 1.7 million women.
Cramer, mission support commander of the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard based at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport, was the keynote speaker during the Veterans Day ceremony, presented by the Richland County Joint Veterans Council.
The ceremony was led by Bruce Phipps, commander of the Joint Veterans Council. It included the presentation of colors, wreath placement, 21-gun salute to honored dead and the playing of Taps.
Cramer was also be the grand marshal of the annual Veterans Day parade, but that outdoor event was cancelled due to expected inclement weather.
Cramer, whose team includes civil engineers, firefighters, communication specialists, logistics readiness, security forces, personnel staff and food service professionals, noted Veterans Day began as Armistice Day in honor of World War I veterans.
"(World War I) was said to be the war to end all wars," he said. "Unfortunately, it was not.
"Every generation, you or someone you know, has answered the call to serve in our armed forces. Their service and patriotism are definitive examples of their character.
"When they speak of the United States of America, and what this country means to them, they stand tall and their eyes turn misty in remembrance of their brothers and sisters in arms, who they are proud to call family," Cramer said.
Cramer lauded all veterans, but made special mention of the Air and Army National Guard.
"While the front lines have changed from the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts of the Middle East ... the National Guard has remained steady and ready and always there. The sacrifice of our National Guard veterans represent the foundations of our country, from the original Minutemen to our modern warriors, who give their lives to protect life, liberty and property," Cramer said.
Cramer said National Guard members could be neighbors, teachers, public servants, employees, supervisors or business owners.
"But the moment they don their uniform, they are airmen and soldiers who defend our homeland and respond at a moment's notice," he said.
"We honor the unwavering courage of the men and women who have served in our armed forces. Our men and women in uniform both past and present have been, and are, our most powerful line of defense in all conflicts against enemies who set out to harm our very way of life," Cramer said.
"To our veterans, our service members of all ages, who have engaged in combat, stability and humanitarian operations, we and I honor you," he said.