M’boro ceremony honors veterans

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 13, 2004

MURFREESBORO – On Thursday morning, members of Murfreesboro Town Hall along with other appreciative locals in the community gathered together for one purpose, to honor our nation’s veterans.

In a tender, reflective ceremony organized by seven veterans who made up this year’s Veteran’s Day Committee, a captive audience listened to heartfelt benedictions, moving and contemplative poetry, angelic acapella verses of songs woven deep in the fabric of our country’s history, war memories both tragic and triumphant and a passionate emotion inciting brass rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic and Taps.

Using the time to pause and reflect on men and women, who sacrificially served in various branches of the military to defend our most treasured principals and freedoms, veterans took turns sharing words that pierced the souls of all within earshot of their voices.

&uot;When I was asked to speak, I consulted my 1981 desk copy of Webster’s to see how the word ‘veteran’ was defined,&uot; said veteran Rev. Thomas Caulkins, &uot;and I realized that either all of us were wrong or the dictionary was wrong because it referred to a ‘veteran’ as an old soldier. Now, that is not incorrect, but it is incomplete. Although many do show signs of aging, there are many men and women who have been wounded or are out of the service that are far from old.&uot;

Caulkins continued, &uot;However, we are here for reasons other than direct contact with family or friends who served our country. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave because countless men and women were willing to put their lives on the line and heed the call of arms that often times put them directly in the line of fire, so that others could enjoy freedom.

&uot;We’re here because we understand the sacrifices so many have made while marching under the flag and our presence and gratitude comes from the heart,&uot; he said. &uot;Who can reflect without being moved to tears? It is fitting when we contemplate the hardship so many endured, for what greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for another?&uot;

Town Mayor Ben McLean, although admittedly not a vet himself, expressed deep and sincere gratitude to those who have served.

After being asked to stand and tell which branch of the military they served in, each vet came to his or her feet in reverent pride, sharing brief testimonies of their service in places like Korea, Germany, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, South Pacific, France and Austria or even state side during times of peace.

With what seemed to be about 30 veterans present, each undoubtedly had individually unique stories of their experience, but collectively they were all proud to have served their country.

Featured speaker, Jim Sullins, who spent 10 years in the Army National Guard, gave a three-part speech that stirred the hearts of all in attendance. Beginning with the recitation of an actual condolence letter written to the family of a soldier who died recently in combat in Yusufiyah, Iraq, Sullins touched a chord of emotion with the attendees who couldn’t help but place themselves in the shoes of the beloved mother and father whose loss resonated with unequivocal sorrow at the unwelcomed news.

As he read the Lieutenant Colonel’s words, a picture of a valiant young man with a driving passion to free the oppressed was unfurled, a common testimony of the bravery and resolve of those who are called to wear the uniform of this great nation.

And in the words of one who lived to tell the story of battle, WWII Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant Rogers was quoted as saying, &uot;There is nothing sweeter than to be an old man who has fought for his country,&uot; a sentiment reflected the faces of those who shared the same camaraderie in their respective branches of service.

&uot;Patriot Thomas Payne recognized the importance of these sacrifices,&uot; said Sullins, &uot;when he wrote: ‘These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country. But, he that stands now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.’&uot;

Extolling the relevance of those words to contemporary times, Sullins added, &uot;We owe (the veterans) thanks, and that thanks requires a commitment on our part – a commitment to the principles of our nation, and to the personal sacrifice needed to preserve those principles…In this new war, our men and women in uniform have once more been called to lead America’s assault against those who threaten the security of freedom-loving people everywhere (and) as such, our troops need ton know we stand with them.

&uot;These extraordinary young men and women who have accepted the baton of service from generations of the veterans before them, do so with the same devotion of duty, and with the same dreams for justice and peace as their predecessors.&uot;

He continued, &uot;By keeping faith with them, we help ensure that the sacrifices of every American veteran who ever served his or her country will not have been made in vain.&uot;

Before the program concluded, William Whitley passed around printouts of the battlegrounds where he fought in Germany and brought out an antiquated black and white photo of a First Lieutenant who lost his life in a brave attempt to make contact with their American company in Germany during WWII.

&uot;I begged him not to go, but he said he had to and as soon as he stood up a bullet hit him right in the center of his forehead,&uot; he said, &uot;But, sometimes, a tragic memory is a treasured memory. Believe me.&uot; (Whitley’s daughter, Rita, was named after his friend’s widow.)

He also mentioned that veterans were dying at a rate of 1,000 per day, 360,000 each year.

The event concluded with a sentimental brass solo of Taps and prayer followed by a time of fellowship and refreshments.