"The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten."
Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of The United States of America
Gene Vance Jr. Day
Gene Vance Jr. Day is a commemorative Military Appreciation Day named for Gene Arden Vance Jr. Founded in 2012 by Vance's close friend and brother in-law, Michael M.J. Minc, it is recognized annually during May in the United States of America by the State of West Virginia with remembrances at select military installations that bear Vance's name throughout the nation. The day is celebrated during Military Appreciation Month and U.S. Armed Forces Week. It honors the legacy of American soldiers who returned home from the Global War on Terror (GWOT), the longest ongoing war in U.S. history, remembers and mourns the fallen and supports the wounded.
It is distinct from other U.S. military appreciation days in that it is named for an American military hero and specifically honors American service members and their allies who are serving, were wounded or perished in the ongoing conflict.
On May 15, 2021 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, founder Minc spearheaded a virtual tribute on U.S. Armed Forces Day to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Gene Vance Jr. Day and commemorate the 20th Anniversary year of the September 11 attacks. It also honored the memory of COVID-19 pandemic victims and encouraged COVID-19 vaccination in the United States in support of ongoing mass immunization efforts.
Entitled ‘United in Spirit 2021, American Tribute 10’, it received a letter of commendation from the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden who is also commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces, praising the Gene Vance Jr. Foundation’s efforts aimed at improving the quality of life for wounded veterans.
It brought together national government leaders, military leaders, education leaders, religious leaders, musical performers as well as those on the frontlines of the pandemic.
On May 21, 2022, US Armed Forces Day, amidst the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the foundation once again created and broadcast a 3rd virtual tribute event to celebrate the 11th Anniversary of the Gene Vance Jr. Day and commemorate the 20th anniversary of Vance’s death during the 21st Anniversary year of 9/11.
Entitled ‘American Freedom Tribute XI', it received a special greeting letter of commendation from Governor Jim Justice thanking Chairman Minc and the Foundation for its role.
The goal of the virtual ceremonies are to inspire hope and unite people during a time of global social and economic disruption on a day which historically honors those on the front lines of the Global War on Terror.
Official observances are proclaimed annually on May 18 in the City of Morgantown, West Virginia in a citywide ceremony that includes official proclamations, state and local governmental and military leadership addresses and greetings, wreath laying memorializing the names of fallen soldiers from West Virginia, guest speakers and participation from national organizations, musical performances and events to raise awareness for those wounded in the conflict.
The day is organized annually by the Gene Vance Jr. Foundation, State of West Virginia, the West Virginia Army National Guard, City of Morgantown and Vance Memorials nationwide.