CSM Tennant's Veterans Day speech to Bullitt North High School and Middle School
November 13, 2009
Let's see who has real school spirit!!
1. Are there any Panthers in the house, Make some noise!!!
2. Are there any Eagles in the house, Make some noise!!!
I'd like to thank your principal, Ms. Lamb, for giving me this opportunity to speak to you today. Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests and, of course, the students of North Bullitt High School, welcome to this Veterans Day celebration. It is a privilege for me to honor a very special group of Americans today - on "Veterans Day". As the Command Sergeant Major of Fort Knox's 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), I can not think of no better place to be then right here with you. Since this is my very first time here at North Bullitt High School I went on line to do a little research about this great school, so I check the website and ran across the mission statement for this school and it kind of goes in line with what we do in the Army. "The mission of North Bullitt High School is to provide a strong academic and social foundation, within a safe and nurturing environment, whereby all students can achieve their maximum potential and become responsible productive members of society." And the school's goals I thought were important and I hope every student knows what they are:
NORTH BULLITT HIGH SCHOOL GOALS
Aca,!AcTo implement the principles of learning stated in the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.
Aca,!AcTo improve the school environment.
Aca,!AcTo improve school/community relations through communications.
Aca,!AcTo improve opportunities for students to develop their unique abilities and talents through a well-balanced extra-curricular activity program.
Aca,!AcTo improve attendance.
Students always remember this is your school so always try to be apart of something positive!!
The Army has a creed that all Soldiers are required to know its called the "Soldiers Creed" and it goes something like this: I am an American Soldier.............................................I know I am not here to try to recruit anyone to join the Army. I preferred all of you finish high school and then go straight to college, however if you don't know what you want to do after finishing high school the Army is a great place to start and you can still work towards a college degree while serving your country.
Now, listen, I know a lot of you students would probably rather be on MySpace, texting messages to each other or playing X-Box than listening to an old, er, I mean...EXPERIENCED Soldier like myself talk to you about Veterans Day, but if you give me just a few minutes of your time, I think I can show you that celebrating Veterans Day isn't just for old folks. Let me start by telling you a short story...
It was February 1945, the closing months of World War 2, and the battle of Iwo Jima was raging. Enemy forces launched a furious attack against a small group of Marines on the Volcano Islands. Private First Class Jack Lucas used his body to shield three fellow squad members from two grenades, and was nearly killed when one exploded. "A couple of grenades rolled into the trench," Lucas said in an Associated Press interview shortly before he received the Congressional Medal Of Honor (the highest military award for bravery)from President Truman in October 1945. "I hollered to my pals to get out and did a Superman dive at the grenades. I wasn't a Superman after I got hit. I let out one helluva scream when that thing went off." Lucas was left with more than 250 pieces of shrapnel in his body including six pieces in his brain and two in his heart, and endured 26 surgeries in the following months. At the time of his heroism...Lucas was just six days past his 17th birthday.
By his own admission, Jack Lucas was not a superman. He was an ordinary man who chose to do something extraordinary. But I believe that everyone who chooses to wear our country's uniform is doing something extraordinary. Our nation's veterans represent the millions of American men and women who have served the republic over the past two hundred years. Fortunately, this country has been blessed with citizens who have taken their civic responsibility seriously and have taken up arms and marched to the sound of the guns whenever and wherever the rights of men and women have been threatened. As of 2000 our Census bureau count there are over 26, 403,703 veterans, these citizen-soldiers were not seeking personal gain or even fame. Their country called and they answered. Theirs was a simple, patriotic response. They recognized their civic duty and acted accordingly.
Our nation owes a great debt to its veterans, whose service spans every decade, and continues every day of our country's existence. Through untold courage and sacrifice, America's veterans have secured the liberty which the founding fathers sought to establish here in the new world. Whenever and wherever the nation has called -- in times of darkness and danger as well as in times of peace and prosperity -- America's veterans have been there. Veterans have proudly carried the torch of liberty for all to see.
Veterans have ensured your right to travel freely all around this great country and around the world, to do things like having access to the internet, the ability to go to the movies, play sports, attending sporting events, go to a concert or just hang out with your friends. In fact, this very school building stands, in part, because of the sacrifices of our veterans. I guess you could say that veterans made homework possible!! (Pause for a combination or groans and boos) Okay, okay, we can argue over how positive all these freedoms are, but there's no denying that the contributions of our nation's veterans have played a big part in making the United States of America the great country that it is today. And as of this year, we have been celebrating America's veterans with a special day for 80 years.
The first Veterans Day was declared a national day of remembrance by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. We celebrate Veterans Day on the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, the armistice that began on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. In the years since President Wilson made the 11th of November a national day of remembrance, the scope of our observance has changed, from a day set aside to remember the dead from one war, to a day in which American veterans from all wars, as well as those who served in times of peace, could be honored.
This Veterans Day, as for the past eight years, our nation is at war. We continue to fight to defend our freedoms and combat terrorism. This calls for us to honor and celebrate both those veterans whose service is recorded in the history in past conflicts, and recognize our current warriors who add to our nation's rich history every day. They are stationed around the world standing in harm's way to protect us at this very moment.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm the Command Sergeant Major for the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command. Our unit recently returned from a 15-month deployment to Iraq where we supplied our forces all over Iraq, with everything from beans to bullets, as they say. Iraq is a hot and a dangerous place where we were away from our loved ones and the comforts of home for well over a year, but we went. We went because our nation called and because we had an important job to do, like all servicemembers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and in conflicts all over the world throughout our nation's history.
Our men and women in the military have superb training and the best equipment and able commanders. And they have another great advantage -- they have the example of American veterans who came before. From the very day George Washington took command, the uniform of the United States has always stood for courage and decency and shining hope in a world of darkness. And all who have worn that uniform have won the thanks of the American people.
We owe our nation's veterans a debt we can never repay. We can and should remember them and what they did and why they had to be brave for us. But we must honor them with deeds, not just words. So how do Americans properly thank their veterans this day' It can be as simple as thanking a veteran for their service, but that's just the beginning. Americans can thank its veterans by living their lives and enjoying America's greatness. Americans can thank veterans by taking full advantage of all your rights that they defended. Before you know it, you'll be adults. Vote in every election; write letters to the editor of your local paper; volunteer your time for a worthy cause; fulfill your jury duty; be a volunteer fire fighter; mentor a child; represent your country well while abroad; ensure you are registered for Selective Service, and, yes, at least consider serving your nation in uniform. Live your lives and be good Americans, then all veterans will be proud to know that their sacrifices were not in vain. This is the thanks Americans can give. Live your lives well, as productive citizens should.
Veterans Day is set aside to remember every man and woman who has taken up arms to defend our country. We honor every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Coastguardsman who gave some of the best years of their lives to the service of the United States and stood ready to give life, itself, on our behalf. President John F. Kennedy once said that "a nation reveals itself not only by the people it produces, but also by the people it honors, the people it remembers". Twenty-six million military veterans walk among us, and on this day, our nation salutes them all. North Bullitt High School students and faculty, thank you for your time and attention and thanks to all America's veterans. Hooah!!