NewBridge Madison, a non-profit servicing older adults and the Madison Senior Center staff, collaborated to honor local Black veterans from all service branches in a luncheon on Nov. 11. 

The program began with the Presentation of Colors by Jerry Hook, 3rd District Commander, American Legion. Poet Dr. Fabu Carter offered a poem, titled, “We Thank You” dedicated to the veterans and in honor of her father who proudly served in the Armed Forces. The invocation and benediction was given by, wartime veteran, Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen. 

NewBridge Executive Director Jim Krueger gave opening remarks. As he honored the Black veterans, he acknowledged that awareness of the discrimination against them during their active duty and upon their return home from the war will move people to advocate and take action that can help create change.

Both Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Wisconsin State Rep. Sheila Stubbs provided words of support and encouragement to the veterans. 

There were four speakers, all of African descent, representing the four branches of Service: Barbara Nichols, retired U.S. Navy; Dr. Shon Barnes, City of Madison Chief of Police and U.S Marine Corps; Marcia Anderson, retired Major General for the U.S. Army; and John Givens, U.S. Air Force. 

Each speaker shared personal testimonies of their service experience and how it molded them into the people they are today. 

In their testimonies they shared the hardships experienced because of their race and gender. All four speakers had a common theme, in the face of extreme adversity they respectfully stayed focused. Each stood as a strong patriot, dedicated to God, their country and proud of their service. 

Each speaker chose different paths – some made a lifetime commitment to their chosen branch of service and others completed their tours and pursued other careers. Their messages were different, but connected because of the choice they made to serve their country.   

There was a definite brotherhood/sisterhood, and comradery that all the service members presented that was palpable and real. Even with stories of struggle and adversity, the final message from each of them was about hope. They weren’t saying the struggles are over at all; and none of them looked through rose-colored glasses, but they each shared the conviction and hope for a better tomorrow. In part that is because of what each of them has done with their yesterdays.

Many made the event a success: Exact Sciences the program sponsor; Leotha Stanley the music provider; Bonefish Grill, the caterer; CarMax volunteers the servers; NewBridge, Madison Senior Center staff and numerous volunteers helping were needed.