OCEAN COUNTY – The sacrifices – as well as the contributions – of those who served were remembered at a Veterans Day celebration held at Ocean County College.
OCC President Dr. John H. Larson opened the “Salute To Veterans” by explaining the history of the holiday: “the holiday we observe each year on November 11, originally known as Armistice Day was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for an expansion to the annual celebration to encompass veterans of all wars and the name was changed to Veterans Day.
“We gather today as we do each year here at Ocean County College to recognize those heroes who have served and are currently serving this country proudly, selflessly at home and around the world. To honor those who have vowed to protect our values and our democracy and whose courage and commitment enables all of us to live freely,” Dr. Larson added.
“We also pause to recognize the heavy price that so many have paid in the course of that service and to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation’s honor. President Ronald Reagan once said, ‘we remember those who were called up to give all a person can give and we remember those who are prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty’,” he added.
Larson said, “most of all we remember the gallantry with which all of them enabled their nation as they became champions of our noble cause. Let us reflect upon those words and take them closely to heart.” He acknowledged all student and employee veterans and active military.
Toms River Council President Kevin Geoghegan remarked, “lets also take a moment to acknowledge those families of service members and veterans who shouldered the weight of war and the burden and sacrifice. To the mothers, fathers, spouses and children of our military men and women – thank you.
“I personally have never worn the uniform, been to war, been wounded or scarred in battle. I’ve never put on combat boots, shot at an enemy or even held a dying friend. I have no idea what war is like. I have no idea what any of you have experienced. Your fear, your bravery, your suffering, and your survival. I am simply a grateful American,” Geoghegan added.
The guest speaker was U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant Raffi R. “Stambo” Stambultsyan, of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Larson reviewed his record of service. “He enlisted in the Air Force in 2009 and he has accomplished a great deal. He attended training at Lackland Air Force Base to become a member of security forces. During his time with the Desert Lightning Team, he honed his combat skills with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the A-10 Warthogs air fleet.”
Stambultsyan served in various capacities across the spectrum of security force operations from physical security to law enforcement and administration. He continued his education while serving earning an associate’s degree in criminal justice from the community college of the Air Force.
He also received a Bachelor of Sciences degree in criminal justice and is currently a PHD candidate at Liberty University. He holds professional certifications in diversity and inclusion from Cornell University.
Larson also said the speaker received various awards including the Air Force Commendation medal, Afghanistan Campaign medal with Bronze Star and is a recipient of the National Law Enforcement medal from the Sons of the American Revolution.
Stambultsyan said during his speech, “the one question we are all asked is what do you want to be when you grow up? In 2009, I was a young 19-year-old and I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to put college on hold and join the military.
“I thought exactly what I was going to say when the recruiter asked me what do you want to be? I was prepared. I was going to answer, an American Airman but when the time came, he asked a very different question, and I had no idea how to answer it,” Stambultsyan added.
“The one question only the military will ask of you, ‘what do you want to contribute?’ That was the only question that truly mattered,” he added. He noted that many in the military were able to help him with what he wanted to be, to further his education, to travel. “You have to be careful what you ask for. I said, I want to find love, boom I’m married to my wife of 12 years who is also a veteran and we have two little boys.
“The question still remained, what do I want to contribute, remembering the brave men in women of our history. What did veterans before me contribute? The answer is everything. They put their lives on hold and contributed everything they were asked to do and so much more,” he added.
Members of the Toms River American Legion Post 129 Color Guard were part of the ceremony as well as the OCC Concert Band who performed the National Anthem and a Salute to the Armed Forces. The Legion Post’s Rifle Squad provided a salute.
The ceremony concluded with Ross Eadie of the OCC Concert Band performing Taps.