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Reflecting on Veterans Day

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein greets retired Lt. Col. Alfred Deptula, an aircraft engineer during World War II, after the Veterans Day ceremony at the Air Force Memorial Nov. 11, 2015. The event provided an opportunity for veterans and their families to reflect on the sacrifices made in service of the nation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bryan Franks)

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein greets retired Lt. Col. Alfred Deptula, an aircraft engineer during World War II, after the Veterans Day ceremony at the Air Force Memorial Nov. 11, 2015. The event provided an opportunity for veterans and their families to reflect on the sacrifices made in service of the nation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bryan Franks)

The Air Force Quintet performs the “Armed Forces Medley” as veterans stand up during their services’ songs at the Veterans Day ceremony at the Air Force Memorial Nov. 11, 2015. It’s estimated that 7 percent of the U.S. population are veterans and only 1 percent currently serve on behalf of the nation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bryan Franks)

The Air Force Quintet performs the “Armed Forces Medley” as veterans stand up during their services’ songs at the Veterans Day ceremony at the Air Force Memorial Nov. 11, 2015. It’s estimated that 7 percent of the U.S. population are veterans and only 1 percent currently serve on behalf of the nation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bryan Franks)

From left to right, retired Gen. Larry O. Spencer, the Air Force Association president; Lt. Gen. Mark A. Ediger, the Air Force surgeon general; and retired Chief Master Sgt. Mark A. Stevenson, the Air Force Sergeants Association chief operating officer, present a salute during a wreath laying ceremony as part of the Veterans Day event at the Air Force Memorial Nov. 11, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bryan Franks)

From left to right, retired Gen. Larry O. Spencer, the Air Force Association president; Lt. Gen. Mark A. Ediger, the Air Force surgeon general; and retired Chief Master Sgt. Mark A. Stevenson, the Air Force Sergeants Association chief operating officer, present a salute during a wreath laying ceremony as part of the Veterans Day event at the Air Force Memorial Nov. 11, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bryan Franks)

Retired Gen. Larry O. Spencer, the Air Force Association president, addresses the crowd during a Veterans Day ceremony beneath the spires of the Air Force Memorial Nov. 11, 2015. Veterans and their families reflected on the sacrifices made by the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, who have defended and continue to defend the U.S., its allies and coalition partners. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bryan Franks)

Retired Gen. Larry O. Spencer, the Air Force Association president, addresses the crowd during a Veterans Day ceremony beneath the spires of the Air Force Memorial Nov. 11, 2015. Veterans and their families reflected on the sacrifices made by the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, who have defended and continue to defend the U.S., its allies and coalition partners. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bryan Franks)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Veterans and their families, both young and old, reflected on the sacrifices made by Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, who provide this nation with the best fighting force in the world, during a Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11 at the Air Force Memorial, which overlooks the Pentagon and Potomac River.

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, who attended the event, said he sees Veterans Day as a time to remember and reflect on the fact that veterans are part of something much bigger than themselves.

“This thing called service is not about any one individual -- it’s about a team,” he said. “It’s about an Air Force, the Department of Defense, a joint team and a coalition team.”

Under the Air Force Memorial spires, the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard presented the colors to the crowd of veterans, families and friends from every service, spanning conflicts from World War II to the present.

“I’m a third-generation veteran,” Goldfein said. “My grandfather served in World War II with the Navy, my father (served) 33 years in the Air Force and spent time in Vietnam, and I have been privileged to serve in a few campaigns over the course of my career.”

Reflecting on and honoring those who have served and those who continue to serve, all share a certain mindset that resonates with Goldfein.

“When you talk to military veterans or retirees, they are not talking about the economy or the election or the business they started or other things about life in America,” Goldfein said. “They are talking about what it was like when they wore the cloth of our nation and were part of something better and bigger than themselves.”

During the event, retired Chief Master Sgt. Mark Stevenson, the Air Force Sergeants Association chief operating officer, said the number of veterans is dwindling as the military becomes smaller and the older veterans pass away. It’s estimated 7 percent of the U.S. population are veterans, with 1 percent currently serving. That is a small number of people who are asked to carry a large burden on behalf of a nation.

While the number of veterans may be small across the country, when the Air Force Quintet played the “Armed Forces Melody,” each service was heard loud and clear across the Air Force Memorial plaza, as people both attending the event and visitors of the memorial paid tribute to their individual service.

“When we raise our hand and take the oath, we begin this journey that, quite frankly, is all about continuing to refine our character around our core values,” Goldfein said. “It’s something that you work at every day. As you rise up in rank and responsibility, you are given the chance to lead the nation’s greatest treasure, the young men and women who sign up and serve.”

As Taps began to play, veterans old and young stood up to pay a final tribute to the friends, family members and brothers in arms lost serving throughout the history of the United States.

“As we pause today to recognize those who have served and currently serve our nation, I invite you to also recognize their families, for we know the entire family serves,” said Lt. Gen. Mark A. Ediger, the Air Force surgeon general. “Thank you for taking the time on this Veterans Day to recognize the remarkable legacy of those who have served and sacrificed to secure the freedoms we enjoy today, and thank you for your continued support to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines of today’s U.S. military.”