Cody Clayton Eagle, an 18-year-old high school senior and Morgantown native, is performing today in the virtual Gene Vance Jr. Day ceremony.
Gene Vance Jr. Day, which historically honors those on the front lines of the War on Terror, is also recognizing everyone involved in the fight against COVID-19, Vance’s brother-in-law Michael M. J. Minc said.
“This year we want to honor all those on the front line of COVID-19 as well as our military as we do each year,” Minc said. “The front line has become much longer.”
The goal of this year’s virtual ceremony is to inspire hope and unite us, Minc said. Local musicians like Eagle are a key part of that.
“I’m honored to be part of Gene Vance Jr. Day,” Eagle said.
Gene Arden Vance Jr. was a 38-year-old WVU student and West Virginia National Guard member assigned to 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) who was killed May 18, 2002, in Afghanistan.
Tradtionally, the Gene Vance Jr. Day ceremony is held in Morgantown and includes the reading of the names of the fallen, a wreath-laying ceremony, state and local leaders and musical performances.
This year, the speeches and musical performances are online. Eagle will perform alongside Davisson Brothers Band, the 249th United States Army Band and more.
Eagle will be performing and releasing his third single, “This One’s On Me.”
The nine-hour drive to Nashville is a time when Eagle brainstorms song ideas. It was on one of those trips, shortly after his uncle in the Army was deployed, that he came up with the idea to write a song honoring the members of the armed forces.
Songs can take days, weeks, sometimes years to write but this song came from the heart and flowed out in three hours, he said.
The song will also release on digital platforms today. As will a music video, which Eagle shot at Dream Mountain Ranch in Albright.
Gene Vance Jr. Day is sponsored by the Gene Vance Jr. Foundation for the Catastrophically Injured.
Minc started the foundation in 2006.
The War on Terror has the highest survival rate of any war in America’s history and soldiers return with injuries that had never been survived before, such as multiple missing limbs and other horrific injuries, Minc said.
The foundation aims to improve the quality of life for the catastrophically injured through investment in education, direct assistance, family and community support.
The ceremony is on the Gene Vance Jr. Foundation YouTube page. Morgantown will be airing the ceremony on channel 15 at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. today and noon and 5 p.m. Sunday.