A first for the city, Westfield conducted a ceremony Nov. 10 at The Bridgewater Club honoring local veterans.
A committee began meeting in August to plan the Veterans Day ceremony. Committee members included Westfield residents Mayor-elect Scott Willis, Westfield Police Department Lt. Billy Adams, Westfield Welcome Director Kayla Arnold, Build Indiana Council Executive Director Brian Gould and Indiana Veterans Support Council Board member Lisa Wilken.
Among other local leaders, U.S Rep. Victoria Spartz and State Rep. Donna Schaibley attended.
A combined color guard of veterans from the Westfield police and Westfield fire departments presented the flag for the national anthem. In addition, a small table set for one, known as the “Missing Man Table,” paid respect to prisoners of war and service members missing in action.
Against a screen projecting photos of men and women of Westfield who have served in the military, Gould welcomed more than 50 guests. A fourth-generation U.S. Army veteran, Gould served in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and has been a Westfield resident for eight years.
Gould said that Nov. 11 was originally observed as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I and honoring its fallen. The day has been a national holiday since 1938 and has been known as Veterans Day since 1954.
“As our country and much of the world mourned, there remained a desperate glimmer of hope that the Great War could, indeed, be the ‘War to end all wars,’” Gould said. “Of course, as we are here today, we know that is not the case. As war and conflict continued, so, too, did the courage and sacrifice of men and women who defended our nation and its interests, many of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Willis spoke not only as Westfield’s mayor-elect but as a 30-year U.S. Marine veteran — not missing the opportunity to wish the Marine Corps a happy birthday, as it falls on Nov 10.
Willis said that since the Revolutionary War, more than 40 million Americans have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and 1 million have given their lives. Today, active-duty service members make up less than 1 percent of adults in the U.S.
Willis talked in practical terms about veterans.
“They are ordinary people who come from all walks of life but share common fundamental qualities: courage, honor, selflessness, integrity and devotion to duty,” he said. “They’ve served in places most people have never heard of in conditions most people will never experience or will never comprehend.”
The event concluded with the playing of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Space Force songs and a benediction of blessing by Pastor Matt Gaylor of NSPIRE Church.
“These events are important for the community,” Wilken said. “As Westfield continues to grow, I am excited to see our city honor and remember those who served.”
Gould encouraged people to spend time talking to a veteran.
“Ask questions,” Gould said. “Listen. Take an interest in their experiences and sacrifices.”
Impacting People Positively: Meet Army veteran, WFD Lt. Mark Sutphin
Mark Sutphin served in the U.S. Army for six years. He had recently enlisted and was in basic training on Sept. 11, 2001.
“From that moment on, they trained us like we were going to war tomorrow,” Sutphin said. “It was really intense.”
During two combat tours in Afghanistan, Sutphin used his Advanced Individual Training as a heavy equipment operator to help build an airfield, a forward operating base for special forces operations and to clear minefields around Bagram Air Base.
After serving two more years as a signal operations support specialist for the U.S. Army Reserve, Sutphin left the Army as a sergeant in 2008.
“After I got out of the military, I tried several different careers but never felt satisfied,” Sutphin said. “The office life really wasn’t for me at that time. I missed the brotherhood. A firefighter friend suggested I try firefighting. Not even a month into recruit school, I knew this was the right choice.”
Since joining the Westfield Fire Department, Sutphin has been elected district trustee and district vice president with the Professional Fire Fighters Union of Indiana. A lieutenant with WFD, Sutphin serves as chief of planning. He writes action plans for events, like Colts Training Camp, and for one-time scenarios, like when First Lady Jill Biden visited Westfield High School.
“Becoming a firefighter after the military helped give my life direction and purpose. Because of that, I’ve given it 100 percent,” Sutphin said. “Helping people is the best feeling in the world — to be able to provide that service to the community and the citizens and know that you’re impacting people positively.”
One Voice Can Make a Difference: Meet Air Force veteran, Lisa Wilken
Lisa Wilken is a wife and mother, but she is also a veteran and a volunteer veteran’s advocate through various organizations and as a board member with Indiana Veterans Support Council.
Wilken served in the U.S. Air Force from 1992 to 1996. Since being medically discharged following a sexual assault, Wilken has been working tirelessly for changes in the way the military handles sexual trauma.
Over the years, Wilken has provided information to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services for a report on the treatment of active duty Military Trauma Survivors. With the help of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, before she passed away, Wilken testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Health. After a 13-year effort, the change she worked toward was included in the 2022 Defense Authorization Act.
Wilken helped create the position of State Women Veterans Coordinator at the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, which helps women navigate the VA system. She fought further to have the position protected in code with line item funding.
In 2017, Wilken received a Torchbearer Award from the Indiana Commission for Women for being a trailblazer for women and Hoosier veterans. And on Nov. 10, she was one of 15 inducted into the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame for 2023.
Wilken said that as she walked forward to accept her award, a woman looked her right in the eyes and said quietly, “I haven’t found my veteran voice yet.”
Wilken wants other veterans to know they don’t have to suffer in silence and that, by speaking out and using their “veteran voice,” they help themselves by helping others.
“My message today is, ‘One voice can make a difference,’” she said.
Wilken has shared her story in a book by 10 women veterans entitled “Finding the Words, Stories and Poems of Women Veterans,” available at indianawriters.org/product/finding-the-words-stories-and-poems-by-women-veterans. Proceeds from the sale of the book go to future projects at the Indiana Writers Center.