First Army joins Quad Cities military salute
June 14, 2014
BETTENDORF, Iowa -- The importance of selfless service was stressed at the Quad Cities Military Salute Gala on Friday at the Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center. Lt. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, First Army commanding general, served as featured speaker for the event, which was held in conjunction with the Army's 239th birthday.
The gala included dinner, dancing, a cake-cutting, the posting of colors, patriotic speeches, and camaraderie between service members, business leaders, and elected representatives.
"Selfless service is a core value for our nation's military and was a critical element in the foundation used by our Founding Fathers to build this mighty nation," Tucker said. "Mahatma Gandhi stated that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others, and I feel this comment best defines service in general."
It is an attribute that has lifetime benefits, he added. "Service is not a social event or field trip with your friends that you attend because it will be fun. Nor is it something you do because it will look good on a college transcript, scholarship application or a resume. It is a core value or belief that drives and motivates us and defines the way we act and live," he said.
Acknowledging supreme service and sacrifice, Tucker recognized three Gold Star Family members in attendance, Teri Johnson, David Pautsch and Annie Cox.
"We honor you for your sacrifice and offer our humble thanks for joining our celebration this evening. You remain an inspiration to all of us and every effort should be made to support our Gold Star families," Tucker said.
Also in the audience was 94-year-old Davenport resident Emmett Keenan, a First Army D-Day and Battle of the Bulge veteran. "What an honor," Tucker said. Seventy years and seven days ago, that man right there was crossing the beaches of Normandy to begin the liberation of Europe and helped change our world as we know it."
Keenan, who received a stream of well-wishers at his table throughout the evening, said the gala left him impressed. "This is a great event," he said. "It's a beautiful set-up, very formal, and the people are great."
Keeping with the history theme, Tucker paid tribute Medal of Honor recipients John Baker and Salvatore Giunta. Baker, a Vietnam War veteran, is the only Quad Cities native to receive the nation's highest military honor. In 2007, Giunta, of Iowa, became the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.
Tucker spoke about the military-friendly nature of the Quad Cites, and noted the area hosted 18 Memorial Day events this year. He touted the contributions of Patriot Guard Riders and the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities. He also acknowledged civic leaders.
"We owe a special thank you to our Quad City Association of the United States Army chapter and its president, Jeff Carr. I'd also like to thank the USO of Illinois and its president, Alison Ruble, and our Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce president, Tara Barney, and her outstanding staff for sponsoring the wonderful event. To all of you, your tireless efforts supporting the Arsenal and our military families in the Quad Cities over the years is greatly appreciated," he said.
This year's gala, the second annual, was sponsored by the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, the Rock Island Chapter of AUSA, the USO of Illinois, and numerous Quad Cities businesses.
According to Carr, the relationship is mutually beneficial. "It's the Army's 239th birthday and this is a chance to celebrate the military as a whole," he said. "I'm retired Army and I know the importance of the military and community having strong ties."
Tucker noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War. "I feel it is right and proper to pay homage to the more than 58,000 U.S. servicemen killed in action and to also honor the more than 2.5 million servicemen that honorably served in South Vietnam during this conflict," he said.
On another subject, Tucker noted the healthy competition that exists among the Armed Forces, but he stressed the common goal. "We all like to beat our chests and say, 'My service is the best,' but at the end of the day, we all know we're a joint force and depend on each other, especially in combat. We may have different colored uniforms, but collectively we are all Red, White, and Blue within our hearts. All of our Armed Forces are fully engaged in a selfless endeavor to defend our Constitution and the American way of life."
Tucker said challenges lie ahead for the Army, but, "With selfless heroes and concerned citizens and volunteers such as those here in the Quad Cities, I have full faith and confidence that we will collectively overcome all of them."
Music for the evening was provided by the USO of Illinois Band, the 144th Army National Guard Band, and the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce band.