Tennessee has roughly 500,000 veterans by federal counts, and more than 10 percent of them served since 9/11. This new class of veterans is figuring out how to mark Veterans Day.
Micah Miller of Murfreesboro, who was an Army medic in Iraq, will march in the Nashville parade with other student veterans. Then he’ll take his three kids out of school and go visit a local veterans home out of respect.
“That’s not really a trait that’s being passed around any more,” he says. “It’s not about teaching them about war and all this. It’s about respecting the people that have set up America the way it is.”
After four years in the Marines and two tours in Afghanistan, Saul Camarena returned to Nashville and is now studying computer engineering. He says he doesn’t have time to march in the parade, but he’ll at least watch along with the crowd, even if no one recognizes him as a veteran.
“It feels good to see so many people showing up for these events because it seems like somebody does actually care about veterans,” Camarena says.
This is the first Veterans Day for Woody Umstead, a 24-year-old who left the Navy last year. He served four years as a weapons technician, including a tour of duty in Iraq, and decided military life wasn’t for him. He says he’s surprised at the rush of emotions. He watched paratroopers descend on the quad of Lipscomb University Monday.
“My philosophy getting out, I hung up my uniform,” he says. “So this is actually my first day I’m getting to experience this. Seeing this kind of made me miss it a little bit. I’m not even going to lie.”
Umstead dusted off his squadron cap for the occasion. He says it’s the first time he’s put it on since leaving the Navy.