BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham Shines Spotlight on Heroes: Veterans’ Commemoration Event
September 17, 2023
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–On September 16, 2023, the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham hosted a Veterans Appreciation Day ceremony with nearly 100 veterans, active-duty military, and their families in attendance. Set outdoors against the backdrop of Akshardham, U.S. Armed Forces’ veterans were honored for their dedication and commitment to the nation.
BAPS, along with members of the local community, deeply appreciated the service, courage, and commitment of the current and former members of the U.S. Military. They gathered to pay tribute to the brave men and women who have selflessly served the nation, defending the principles of freedom, liberty, and democracy. The ceremony was led by SSgt Angelina Mehta, who has proudly been serving in the US Marine Corps for 20 years and is also a dedicated BAPS volunteer.
The program commenced with a presentation of the colors by the Burlington High School JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) and a moment of silence for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. It was then followed by a beautiful duet of the American national anthem.
Rooted in the spirit of service, both BAPS and our U.S. Military champion the value of giving back and selflessly serving society. Ms. Medina Wilson, Chief of Veteran Services of Mercer County, spoke on behalf of Mercer County Executive, Mr. Brian Hughes, and was honored to recognize the contributions of veterans. She shared BAPS’ excitement to commence this annual Veterans Appreciation Day at Akshardham.
A highlight of the program included a heartfelt pinning ceremony as a token of BAPS’ appreciation for the veterans’ unwavering dedication. The presentation also recognized and acknowledged the role of families of veterans and active-duty U.S. Armed Forces. Families are the foundation of our nation’s strength and resilience that enable our armed forces to serve with purpose.
Captain Robert E. Smyth delivered a touching speech on the qualities of veterans and how to honor all branches of our Armed Services. “It’s an honor and privilege to be here today. Veterans Appreciation Days are my favorite and happiest days. There are 21 million veterans in the US. I also want to thank those that are on active duty and in the reserves. This organization [BAPS] here wants to reach out to local veterans and help veterans and their families.”
The program also commemorated National POW/MIA Recognition Day with profound respect and solemnity, observed on September 15, 2023. This day of remembrance honors those Americans who were prisoners of war and those who served and never returned home from the call of duty. A Missing Man table was set up in honor of those brave individuals to understand their sacrifice and pay tribute to those who are not with us today.
SSgt Angelina Mehta concluded the program by asking each participant to reflect on the powerful message of selfless service and harmony. She remarked “Akshardham stands as a testament to the incredible achievements that can be accomplished when individuals come together in unity and dedication, regardless of their background or beliefs. It is a symbol of the profound impact we can have on the world when we work towards a common purpose.” She also reflected on Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s (former spiritual leader of BAPS) life motto, ‘In the joy of others, lies our own’ and shared, “This timeless wisdom reminds us that our happiness is intertwined with the wellbeing of those around us. It calls upon us to extend our hands in service and compassion, just as our veterans have done for our nation… Let us carry this spirit forward, fostering unity and understanding in our communities and continuing to support those who have given so much to our nation.”
Photos and story provided.
About BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham
The BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham at Robbinsville, NJ, is a nexus of Hindu architecture, culture, unity, and selfless service. Bridging India’s heritage with modern America, it embodies the visionary guidance of BAPS’ spiritual leaders Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj. Created by 12,500 volunteers, this masterpiece stands as an enduring symbol of love, peace, hope, and harmony, while preserving traditions across generations.
BAPS is a volunteer-driven spiritual organization committed to fostering individual growth through Hindu values of faith, service, and harmony. It enriches society with the devoted efforts of tens of thousands of volunteers from diverse professional and social backgrounds, contributing millions of volunteer hours annually. Under the spiritual leadership of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, BAPS nurtures Indian traditions in over 100 North American and 3,500 communities worldwide. Through these communities, it champions holistic personal growth, promotes social progress, and encourages diversity by embracing inclusivity across class, race, gender, and culture.