Thursday, December 4, 2008
Thanksgiving to remember
By SUE WATSON
An unforgettable Thanksgiving celebration took place last week in Holly Springs with the arrival of the long-awaited American Veterans Traveling Tribute “Cost of Freedom” exhibits.
Patriotic programs were held every day beginning with the arrival of the various memorials amidst a colorful escort followed by speeches.
A turnout of about 500 people, including those participating in the parade, greeted the traveling tribute on its arrival - including four high school drill teams, scores of motorcyclists, local law enforcement escorts, Mississippi Guard escorts and the DeSoto County Sheriff’s helicopter.
The tribute, which paid honor to all servicemen and women, was hosted by the Collins-Hurdle VFW Post 5697 and the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce. Lives were touched deeply with many hearts filled with gratitude, others tinged with sadness, others with stoicism.
Opening ceremonies Tuesday, Nov. 25
“Today we begin a true week of Thanksgiving in Holly Springs, Mississippi,” said emcee Russell Mauk. “Today we gather together as one to honor and remember the men and women who have worn the uniform and served their country and provided each of us with the freedom we too often take for granted.
“The purpose of the ‘Travelling Tribute’ is not to glorify wars fought, but to pay homage to those who served their country. To those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, the Tribute ensures their memory shall never fade. To the former POWs of all wars, who endured unimaginable hardship and pain in the name of democracy, the Tribute honors their service to our country.
“To our POWs and Missing in Action, the Tribute is dedicated to their memory....Our nation never forgets our warriors....This is an opportunity for those who did not serve to say thank you, we love you and welcome home to our veterans.”
U.S. Army Retired Col. Roy Ray was guest speaker Tuesday at noon. He carries five Military Service Awards.
“On June 4, 1944, just two days before D-Day, Gen. Eisenhower, in his order of the day said, ‘Good luck. And let’s beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.’
“Eight days later on June 12, Ernie Pyle (World War II war correspondent) wrote these words – ‘So that you can know and appreciate and forever be humbly grateful to those both dead and alive who did it for you.’
“It is with this attitude, as a nation under God and forever, humbly grateful, that we are here to remember, honor, and pay tribute to all fallen comrades of the past and all veterans of the past and for those who serve us today here and around the world.
“This traveling team and display will help us remember, reflect upon, and pay tribute to all who served in World War II, the Korean War, the Gulf War, 9-11, and those who have or are still serving in the ongoing Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. You understand the great costs associated with freedom.
“We all know someone, or about someone who served in one or more of these wars; therefore, you know that these names represent much more than just a name. They represent the huge human cost that has been paid for our security, our freedom, and our privilege to live in the greatest nation in the world.
“If you are left behind - a mother, spouse, father, brother, sister or close friend - then you fully understand the high cost of our freedom. You know that behind each name there is a story - a story that was snuffed out and never fully written. You understand that freedom never was free and never will be.... The huge cost of freedom comes in many forms and affects all of us directly or indirectly.
“We must not just look at the past, but to the present and future to gain a complete understanding of how the ‘freedom debt’ has been and must be paid. This great cost is not paid just overseas; it is also paid right here at home.
“On September 11, 2001, our world changed in an instant at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Yes, we pay over there and we also pay over here.
“In 1986, our Marshall County sheriff, Osborne Bell, gave his life in the line of duty. On that fateful day his story and the story of his family changed forever. In 2006, our current sheriff, Kenny Dickerson, quickly solved a tragic case that saved the life of a young girl who was abducted, assaulted and left to die in a field. These are two examples of how our sheriff and police departments protect our way of life by laying their lives on the line every day.
“Let me focus on the big picture. In an overall sense, war is an extension of politics. When diplomacy fails, many times war is the only answer to protect our way of life. The cost of freedom is huge, but we must continue to pay this cost, regardless of how high it may become.
“History shows that most of our wars have been ‘just wars’ or necessary wars. Unfortunately, there will always be the necessity to engage in ‘just wars’ when diplomacy fails, or when we are attacked with no warning or if our nation’s security is at stake. Anyone who has been to war will agree that war should always be the last resort. A strong military is the best arm of diplomacy. We should convince our elected leaders that having a strong military gives us the best way to wage diplomacy and stay out of war. I believe a level of preparation will cause fewer names to show up on the war memorials; our freedom will be less frequently threatened; our children and grandchildren will continue to live free and not have to live under the harsh hands of a rogue leader such as Hitler or Osama bin Laden, where personal freedoms and individual liberties, as we know them, are non-existent.
“No matter how high the cost of freedom, it must be paid. It is most fitting and appropriate that we honor and pay tribute to the sacrifices of our fallen comrades, especially in this special time of the year when we give thanks for everything we enjoy.”
General Mitch Brown, director of Joint Force Headquarters with the Mississippi National Guard, spoke to a gathering of about 200, focusing on military service from his personal point of view.
“I’ve got 22 faces on that wall,” he said, numbering the loss in his company during the Vietnam War.
Born a military brat, Brown’s father said while reading a newspaper at the breakfast table, “It won’t be long until we are in that war.”
The general said he didn't know it but he would be the one to fight in Vietnam.
Brown’s theme for the presentation was, who’s war is it?
“We’ve all heard Vietnam was a president’s war,” Brown said. “Two-thirds were army volunteers. Volunteer or not, men and women in uniform have always gone and given their service and lives to their friends.”
The current war in Iraq and Afghanistan is not like the Vietnam War, he said.
“Most often they go in with some friends they know in high school, the ones they hunted with. Some are father and sons. It's tougher once you get there. Everybody's together. It’s an army of one.”
(In previous wars, people from the same community were often combined with recruits from other states and did not know each other.)
“You are a team and everybody looks out for each other,” Brown said. “Today it is America’s military and an American war.”
The American military is much better treated today at home, too, he said.
Soldiers do not get bumped when flying standby often. An American will give up their seat. And Americans are saying thank you more often.
“Not a week goes by that somebody walks up to me and says thank you,” Brown said. “It’s a totally different attitude. This is America’s army and this is America’s war.”
Brown believes there exists some guilt in the nation regarding how the military once treated its veterans back home due to the once failure of the government to take care of its wounded. This, too, has changed.
“They are making a conscious effort to keep up with every soldier and make sure he or she is taken care of. The educational benefits are better,” Brown said. “The unconscionable treatment of the Vietnam veterans, I think is the cause of this. Their deaths will not have been in vain, if we honor the service of our vets.”
Retired. U.S. Army Ltc. William Hollowell focused his presentation on the Vietnam War. He said those who served in Vietnam chose to serve over other alternatives available to them. In return, they ask nothing but respect from their countrymen, Hollowell said.
“We Vietnam veterans not only talked the talk, we walked the walk, and without doubt, remembered John F. Kennedy’s words, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,’” Hollowell said.
He said the Vietnam Memorial “is a place where we can and must come full circle and help heal the wounds and heartache caused by the unpopular Vietnam War. This is a time and place to remember our family’s and our own sacrifices and commitment made to our country. In Vietnam there were good times and bad, which will be remembered forever. Vietnam is not our life, just a chapter in our life.”
And quoting Shakespeare, Hollowell said, “He today that shed his blood with me shall be my brother.”
He said he hopes today’s America knows it can support the troops even if they do not support a war.
“We hope American leaders have learned that they can never again send America’s sons and daughters to war unless it has the full support of the American people,” Hollowell said.
Some facts he attributed to the Vietnam Helicopter Crewman’s Association include:
(In appreciation - The South Reporter thanks all who helped in any way to bring the traveling memorials to Holly Springs. And the newspaper staff thanks all who attended the daily ceremonies or participated in them. The newspaper regrets there is no way to present a full account of each individual’s unique participation in this historic event in our city.)
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