Though I never served, I learned to honor those who have from my experiences with those in my family who answered the call. I had the chance to honor one of those heroes – my dad – during this year's Veterans Day Parade.
The stories told to me by my grandfathers from World War II – one who served in the U.S. Army, the other in the Navy during Pearl Harbor –played an integral role in my life.
One of the most touching moments I experienced during this year's Week of Valor occurred during JAX Chamber’s Annual Military Appreciation Luncheon, where I saw military personnel and civilians stand side-by-side reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It was an inspiring moment to witness.
Jacksonville is a military town. We’re home to two Navy bases, a Marine Corps support facility, a Coast Guard Sector, and a squadron of the Florida Air National Guard. One in four Jacksonville residents is directly connected to the armed forces, either as active duty, veteran, or a family member. And the military’s presence creates a countywide economic impact of $12 billion.
The military’s impact in Jacksonville goes beyond mere dollars, the servicemen and women are key members of our community. They are neighbors, friends, little league coaches, business owners, scoutmasters, PTA members and community volunteers.
This city takes our commitment to the men and women of our armed forces very seriously. It’s no wonder why Jacksonville is consistently ranked among the most requested duty stations in the U.S. Navy. And it’s why every year, some 3,000 transitioning service members choose to remain in northeast Florida.
To the men and women who served and have served in our military, thank you. You answered the call of duty and dedicated your lives to protecting our nation and our freedoms, and we are forever grateful.