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Retired Sailor Uses Veterans Day to Recall Life, Service

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2004 – "Veterans Day is a remembrance of all the veterans that made the supreme sacrifice all the people who died making a contribution to the freedom of this country. It's also a day of remembrance of the ones who were fortunate enough not to die, but contributed to the freedom of the country," said Lanier Phillips.

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Retired Navy Petty Officer Lanier Phillips, resident of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, calls Veterans Day a special occasion for remembering living and deceased servicemembers. Photo by Rudi Williams

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Reflecting over more than 83 years of living, including 20 years in the Navy, Phillips said he sometimes smiles when he thinks of the dramatic changes in the way the armed forces treat people of color.

Phillips is a resident of the Armed Forces Retirement Home here, formerly known as the U.S. Soldier's Home. The home, two facilities in Washington and in Gulfport, Miss., are retirement communities for former soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

Phillips said he's pleased with the giant strides the military has made in making service to the nation palatable for all Americans. Over the years, Phillips has told his children and grandchildren the about his wartime and Navy experiences.

"I tell my kids and grandkids about history because I think it's very important," said Phillips, who retired as a first class sonar technician in October 1961. He served as a mess attendant until 1955.

Today, Phillips travels around the country telling audiences about his World War II experiences and his experiences as an African American in the Navy before the services were integrated and in the years afterward.

Whenever he gets a chance, Phillips said, he explains to young people how great the military is today. "I think the community, regardless of the geographical location, should take lessons from the military today on integration. I go around to different military bases, such as the anti- submarine warfare base in San Diego, and speak to the students.

"I tell them how great the military is and how I wish that I'd had the opportunities that they have today," Phillips continued. "It's better in the military today; everything is equal as far as I can see. Unlike before, an individual can go where he wants to go and advance as he chooses to. Depending on what he puts in, that's what he gets out. It wasn't like that for me when I went. I had no choice."

Phillips transferred from the Gulfport home to the Washington facility last April to have heart surgery, and ended up moving his residence there.

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