U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Angel Clark-Davis stood at a podium looking out across a room in Tuscumbia Church of Christ Annex filled with veterans and their families.
"They opened the door so I could serve (our country)," said Clark-Davis, a 1980 graduate of Deshler High School. "They passed the torch to me and now I have the privilege to pass the torch to the next generation."
Clark-Davis was the keynote speaker at the annual Tuscumbia Veterans Day celebration hosted by American Legion Post 31.
"We owe them a great deal. First and foremost, we owe them for our freedom," said Clark-Davis, who is stationed in Huntsville. "These veterans have defended the nation in the best times and in bad times."
Clark-Davis said in her tours of duty she has had the privilege of seeing Europe, visiting some of the areas were many major battles were fought during the early wars.
"I stood in what was left of foxholes that were dug during the Battle of the Bulge," she said. "You could still feel the presence of those who lost their lives there and of those who fought for our freedom there."
Another ceremony took place in Florence. Neil Thorne, of Killen, went into the Army right after high school and spent 14 years in the service.
He attended Monday's Veterans Day Commemoration Ceremony at the University of North Alabama Performance Center.
"It was just something the men in our family did," said Thorne, who served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. "It's great to be able to see these young soldiers step up and be recognized on Veterans Day for serving their country."
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Wayne Bergeron, faculty adviser for the UNA Military and Veteran Alliance, said it's important to remember Veterans Day, especially when there are less than 1 percent of American citizens serving in the military.
"What a great day to be an American. What a great day to be a veteran," Bergeron said.
Several UNA ROTC students and veterans were on hand for Monday's ceremony.
Florence Mayor Mickey Haddock, guest speaker at the UNA program, served for 34 years in the Alabama Army National Guard.
"I'm excited that there are people like you who are willing to keep up the fight for our freedom and to serve our country," Haddock said, speaking to the cadets. "We cannot be saved by the valor of our ancestors. It's the patriots of (today) who maintain our freedoms."
Clark-Davis said America is the greatest nation on earth but it did not get that way without the sacrifices of the veterans who served and continued to serve.
"Soldiers have always been willing to fight, and many times to die, for the freedom we have," she said. "They have made a positive impact in the lives of all Americans. They have inspired others and they have always answered the call of duty.
"To you, our veterans, I say thank you. I'm proud to be a veteran."
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.