Bill Bates joined the Air Force in 1965, a year after graduating from high school.
He reflected on that time on Mitchell Community College’s campus with other school-affiliated veterans.
Bates, Love Valley Presbyterian Church’s pastor and a second-year student at Mitchell, thanked veterans as well as their families.
“Those who stay behind also serve,” Bates said. “Thank you for what you’ve done for veterans and our country.”
Bates said he served as air police, trained to be an illustrator and served in intelligence for six months in Guam during the Vietnam War.
He remembered a time when he drove from his family’s home in Connecticut to New Hampshire, where his sister went to school, while he was in the military. Bates said he traveled in his uniform because he was proud of his service.
However, this was during the turbulent time of the Vietnam War.
“There was a time in our past when veterans and military members were not appreciated or respected,” Bates said.
When he stopped for lunch, Bates said he ran into a crowd who looked negatively upon the military and those who served in it.
Bates said he was glad the feelings about veterans and those serving had shifted through the decades.
Those who serve in the military sacrifice the plans and goals they had before joining the military and face the risk of bodily and mental harm to protect their country.
However, Bates said he was sure any veteran or military member would agree the biggest struggle was being separated from their homes and families.
Even after their service, Bates said veterans retained the values they learned in the military.
“A veteran is committed to the cause of freedom,” Bates said. “A veteran is committed to the cause of courage, and a veteran is committed to the love of country.”
Statesville High School’s Army JROTC presented the American flag at the event and college staff led the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Mitchell Community Band played “Marches of the Armed Forces” and veterans stood when their branch’s march was played.