Standing at the site of Next Generation’s “Words From War” monument are sculptor Ross Power; Williamson and Gracie; Iraq Army veteran Jimmy Lee Jackson; former Marine Corps Capt. Bruce Cady; and Charles Jackson, former Naval military police officer.
What comes to mind when you hear someone mention Veterans Day? For most of us, the national holiday honoring those who have served in a branch of the United States armed forces has us picturing older individuals, retired from their military duties.
That’s why 33-year-old Patrick Williamson is eager to spread the word about Vero Beach Next Generation Veterans. One of a number of non-governmental veteran-related organizations under the umbrella of Veterans Council of Indian River County, the nonprofit is aimed at reaching out to young vets who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq since Sept. 11, 2001, and the beginning of the Global War on Terror.
Williamson, a former U.S. Army infantryman originally from Indiana, became involved with Next Generation Veterans two years ago when he played a lead role in the “Boots on the Ground” presentation at Veteran’s Memorial Island Sanctuary. It left an indelible impression.
“There was a boot with an American flag for every 23 of the 6,959 military lives in our county that had been lost since 9/11. It was so moving. People were coming forward, kneeling by the boots and weeping,” says Williamson, describing the emotional impact the sheer volume of scuffed heavy-duty footwear bearing the stars and stripes had on everyone who was there, including himself.