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Retired general: ‘What veterans have given our country is indeed beyond our power to fully repay’

Retired Lt. Gen. Walter Gaskin spoke to the crowd at Dobbins Heights' annual Veterans Day ceremony Monday. Gaskin is one of six African Americans to make the rank of lieutenant general in the Marine Corps.
William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

DOBBINS HEIGHTS — Ball caps designating different branches of the military dotted the crowd for Monday’s Veterans Day Service at the Dobbins Heights Community Center.

More than 50 people attended the annual event, at least half of whom were veterans. The majority served in the U.S. Army, like Mayor Antonio Blue.

Others served in the Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps, like Hamlet Police Chief Tommy McMasters and the guest speaker, retired Lt. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin.

Gaskin said he was one of six African Americans to reach that rank in the Corps and that being in Richmond County on Veterans Day held importance to him: the first African American to be commissioned as an officer in the Marines was Hamlet native Frederick Branch.

“I tell all of the Montford Point Marines, which he was a part of, ‘Because you wanted to be a Marine, I got a chance to be a Marine,’” he said.

Currently the CEO of La Porte Technology Defense, Gaskin previously served as deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune and, simultaneously, commanding general of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, which he led during its year-long deployment to Al Anbar Province, Iraq, as the commanding general of Multinational Forces-West, according to his biography.

The military, Gaskin said, is “the most diverse institution in our country.”

“Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen, who represent every corner of our country, every shade of our humanity; immigrants and native-born; Christian, Muslims, non-believers alike, all forge into one common service of our country and our way of life,” he said. “What veterans have given our country is indeed beyond our power to fully repay.

“And yet, today, we recognize our debt and to honor them … (and) say, ‘Thank you for your service,” Gaskin continued. “Holidays are insufficient to thank you for all that you’ve done. Our hearts are filled with respect and gratitude for the veterans of the United States of America.”


During his speech, Gaskin spoke about the selflessness and sacrifice of those who served and said they should be taken care of for putting their lives on the line.

He gave examples from past and current wars, ranging from the liberation of Europe during World War II to the actions over the past 18 years in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, including the taking down of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and most recently, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“All who have served this cause are liberators,” Gaskin said. “Their actions have made our nation safer, and have made the world free and safe from all of the dangers that appear.”

He added that America remains “the greatest force for good.”

“And never, ever let the political discourse cause us to lose that fact,” he added. “If there is one thing that our veterans teach us, is that there is no threat we cannot beat, there’s no challenge that we cannot overcome and America’s best days are still ahead of us.”

Following his speech, a memorial wreath was placed in front of the podium and Taps was played.

Blue thanked Gaskin for being part of the service and presented him with a card and token of appreciation from the town.

Earlier in the service, the national anthem was performed by Raven Newton.