By: Sharon Aron Baron
The City of Tamarac Veterans Day Service held Friday morning featured keynote speaker U.S. Army Sgt. Major Kenneth Juede who is retired from the Army after 29 years and currently is serving as the Director of Mission United’s Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program & Veteran Employment services.
Sgt. Major Juede’s military awards include the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, and the Combat Action Badge. Born in 1967, his own father, a Vietnam veteran, enlisted in the Army rather than waiting for his number to be called.
In 1987, Juede decided to enlist in the Army instead of enrolling in college right away.
“Whether you were drafted or you volunteered, you served this country in a time of turmoil and great conflict. Not only in Vietnam, but in the United States of America. I salute you because you’re not forgotten,” said Juede.
Raised in Williamsburg VA, patriotism ran high in the area. As a five-year-old, he was in Norfolk with his father, and couldn’t go into a store after his father showed him a sign which read “No sailors or soldiers allowed.” He said he never forgot that experience.
Serving as a Military Police soldier and multiple combat tour veteran, whose most recent combat assignment included a deployment to Afghanistan, his final active duty assignment included service as a Course Facilitator at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he was responsible for providing instruction to senior enlisted leaders. Juede holds an undergraduate degree from Excelsior College and completed his graduate work at the University of Texas in El Paso, as well as the University of Louisville. He is also father to two sons: Tyler, an Army Veteran, and Ian, who recently graduated from college.
He retired last June, however before he did, he had a lot of anxiety. In the military, every day had a purpose and each day was regimented. As a civilian, this would be the first time he would ever have to write a resume.
“I’m a Sergeant Major and I’ve led 1,200 men and women in the Military Police Corp at Special Task Force above brigade level and I never wrote a resume,” he said.
Receiving little response made his transition to civilian life very hard, however, he said that the transition of veterans today is no different than it was before. Emphasizing the importance of community support, he is grateful that he has found support in South Florida with other like-minded vets.
“To come to a community – when you go town, after town, after town, especially a great town like Tamarac that provides that support for our Veterans that are transitioning, and for those who have already transitioned – the outpouring love and support from the residents is overwhelming.”
Currently working with United Way, Juede said he is fortunate because he still gets to help soldiers with Mission United. In his position, he helps homeless veterans and said there are currently over 250 homeless vets on the street.
“I am blessed to have this job, I feel blessed to be able to continue to serve our country with a nonprofit organization.”
The beautiful crisp November weather made the day even more special to welcome the large turnout of residents and veterans, many who were honored with their name being inscribed on the two new glass Honor Wall Panels.
The music was performed by the Coral Glades High School Concert Band, the Massing of Colors was performed by the Tamarac Fire Rescue Honor Guard, the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Dominic Gray, Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee. The National Anthem was performed by Chantal Deshaies, and Paul Kinney performed “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.
City Manager Michael Cernech led the introductions to the speakers which included recently elected Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine, Mayor Harry Dressler, Vice Mayor Diane Glasser and Commissioners Pamela Bushnell, Michelle Gomez and Debra Placko.