The Congresswoman Shared “Stories of Service” She Received from Virginians to Honor the Personal Sacrifices of Those Who Put on the Uniform
**DOWNLOADABLE VIDEO: On U.S. House Floor, Spanberger Honors Veterans, Servicemembers, and Virginia Military Families**
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today honored Veterans, servicemembers, and Virginia military families.
To recognize Military Appreciation Month, Spanberger launched a survey earlier this month to gather “Stories of Service” from Virginians with loved ones who are active-duty servicemembers or Veterans. Today, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Congresswoman read some of the “Stories of Service” she received from Virginians detailing the service of heroes in their lives who answered the call.
Click here to watch her remarks, and a full transcript of her comments is below.
Mister Speaker, I stand here today during Military Appreciation Month to recognize some of Virginia’s many active duty servicemembers, Veterans, fallen heroes, and military families.
Earlier this month, I reached out to families across Virginia’s Seventh District to gather their “Stories of Service” detailing the courage and unwavering commitment of Virginians who have answered the call to serve our country. As the daughter, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter of Veterans, I’m humbled to read some of the stories I received.
Rick Pullen of Fredericksburg shared the story of his wife, Air Force Colonel Cherie Zadlo, whom he described as “the first woman in nearly every job she had in her 27-year career.” Colonel Zadlo built an airfield, saw missiles come right at her while she was a passenger in a military cargo plane, and was almost killed by a road-side bomb. A symbol of dedicated service to country, her maternity uniform is a part of the Women’s Military Museum collection.
Marie Akins from Prince William shared the story of her late husband, Michael Akins, who joined the U.S. Army when he was 17 years old. He served two tours in Vietnam, joined the Army Reserves, and served in the Gulf War. Upon returning home, Mr. Akins married Mrs. Akins, they had two daughters, and he enjoyed spending time with his three grandchildren. Committed to honoring his brothers in arms, he was a member of two motorcycle clubs — Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guard — which escorted fallen servicemembers to burials in military cemeteries. Mr. Akins is now buried with military honors at Quantico National Cemetery.
Annette Wishner from Orange shared the story of her late father, U.S. Army Air Corps Fighter Pilot Walter Kozial. Of her father’s service in WWII, she writes, “Few people know that he was among a few brave volunteers to be the first to try shooting projectile rockets off the P51 Mustang. They were told that it was uncertain when the rockets would detonate and that they could light up while still on the wing. Dad said to himself, ‘well somebody’s got to do it.’ He had guts, and he loved his country,” she wrote.
I also heard from Clayton Hill from Stafford, who shared the story of his great uncle Wibb Cooper — a U.S. Army Veteran and doctor in the Pacific Theater during World War II, where my own grandfather served. Mr. Cooper was captured by Japanese forces and survived the horrific Bataan Death March. In Clayton’s words, “During that time, he stood up to his captors on behalf of other prisoners. He was decorated for his valor.”
Michele from Stafford, who was born and raised in Germany, immigrated to the United States in 1980. And she shares that she always felt that service to country is the responsibility and duty of all citizens. She wrote, quote, “When I joined the Army, it was my way of giving back to a country that was to become my new home.” She served for eight years before transitioning into civilian service working for the U.S. government, and she retired after 35 years of total service to our country.
Alexa Rice from Prince William wrote to honor many of her loved ones — her husband, serving in the U.S. Army, currently on active duty, as well as her brother, who serves in the U.S. Marine Corps. Her husband has been deployed for the past eight months, and Alexa’s father served for more than 20 years in the Marine Corps. Her oldest brother served in the Marines. Her grandfather served with both the Marine Corps and U.S. Navy. She writes, quote, “It’s with such gratitude that these special individuals, not just of my own family, but men and women all over get the recognition and appreciation they surely earn and earned.”
Virginians who are serving, have served, or love someone who is serving or has served know the true meaning of sacrifice. We as Americans owe a great debt of gratitude to every servicemember — past and present — who put on the uniform and defended our nation.
I will continue working in Congress to pass legislation to connect Virginia’s Veterans and Veterans across the country with the benefits and support they deserve and have earned. And I’ll encourage all Americans to give thanks for the men and women in your life, in our life, in our communities who took up arms. And we must all remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great country.
We as Americans enjoy the promise of freedom — because so many brave Virginians answer the call.
Virginians can click here to share their loved ones’ stories.