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Veterans Memorial Wall

Councilwoman Debra March
Veterans Day Ceremony Speech
November 7, 2009

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Councilwoman Debra March

ON MAY 22, 2007 ON MSR TAMPA, THE ROAD THAT RUNS THROUGH IRAQ FROM SYRIA TO KUWAIT, A STRYKER LIGHT COMBAT MILITARY VEHICLE WAS HIT WITH AN IED, OR AN “IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICE.”

THAT BLAST KILLED TWO SOLDIERS AND WOUNDED SEVERAL OTHERS.

PINNED DOWN AND WOUNDED, THOSE STILL ALIVE WERE TAKING HEAVY FIRE FROM INSURGENTS WHO WERE WAITING IN AMBUSH FOR THEM.

WHEN THE RADIO CALL FOR HELP CAME IN TO THE U.S. MILITARY CAMP IN TAJI SEVERAL MILES AWAY, EIGHT SOLDIERS GRABBED THEIR GEAR, JUMPED INTO ANOTHER STRYKER VEHICLE AND RACED TO THE AID OF THEIR FRIENDS.

WHEN THEY ARRIVED THEY EXITED THEIR VEHICLE UNDER HEAVY FIRE AND DIVED FOR COVER IN A SHALLOW DITCH NEAR THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. THERE WERE AT LEAST 15 INSURGENTS IN SURROUNDING BUILDINGS PINNING THE SOLDIERS DOWN WITH THEIR CONSTANT FIRE.

THE SOLDIERS KNEW THAT THERE WERE SEVERAL WOUNDED IN THE BOMBED OUT STRYKER. THEY COULD HEAR THEIR SCREAMS AND CRIES FOR HELP FROM INSIDE THE VEHICLE.

TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, SEVERAL OF THE INSURGENTS WERE ATTEMPTING TO MAKE THEIR WAY TO THE DOWNED VEHICLE TO CAPTURE THE WOUNDED AND STEAL WEAPONS AND SENSITIVE MAPS AND OTHER DOCUMENTS INSIDE.

IN THE ENSUING CHAOS, ONE OF THE RESPONDING SOLDIERS TOOK CHARGE AND RADIOED FOR SUPPRESSING FIRE ON THE INSURGENTS FROM A 105 MILLIMETER GUN MOUNTED STRYKER VEHICLE THAT HAD JUST ARRIVED AND WAS WAITING ORDERS TO ENGAGE.

THAT SOLDIER THEN SET ABOUT POSITIONING PEOPLE ON THE ROAD, AT THE FUNCTIONING STRYKER, AT THE BACK OF THE DOWNED VEHICLE, AND OTHERS ON HIGHER GROUND, FORMING A PERIMETER.

WITH THE INSURGENTS NOW UNDER FIRE AND THE PERIMETER SET, HE AND ANOTHER SOLDIER RETURNED TO THE DOWNED VEHICLE AND BEGAN CASUALTY EVACUATION. HE STARTED IV LINES, APPLIED TOURNIQUETS…AND PHYSICALLY EVACUATED THE WOUNDED.

ONCE THE WOUNDED WERE CARED FOR AND SAFE, HE RETURNED AGAIN…STILL UNDER FIRE, TO RETRIEVE THE BODIES OF THE TWO DEAD SOLDIERS LEFT INSIDE THE VEHICLE, BECAUSE HE KNEW HE COULDN’T LEAVE A FALLEN BROTHER BEHIND.

WITH EVERYONE OUT, HELICOPTERS ARRIVED AND EVACUATED THE WOUNDED AND DEAD. IN THE MEANTIME THE SOLDIER AND HIS MAKESHIFT TEAM HAD PUSHED INTO THE NEARBY TOWN TO SET UP A SECURE POST. TO THEM IT WAS JUST ANOTHER DAY IN IRAQ!

FOR HIS HEROISM IN ACTION THAT DAY ARMY RANGER DAVID PRICE RECEIVED THE SILVER STAR, ONE OF OUR NATION’S HIGHEST HONORS FOR GALLANTRY IN ACTION.

I SHARE THAT STORY WITH YOU TODAY BECAUSE IT IS A PARTICULARLY POIGNANT FOR ME, AND A BIT DIFFICULT TO RECOUNT, BECAUSE, DAVID PRICE IS MY SON.

AS A PARENT OF THIS FORMER ARMY RANGER WHO SERVED THROUGH FOUR DIFFERENT DEPLOYMENTS, TWO IN IRAQ AND TWO IN AFGHANISTAN….

I KNOW THE SACRIFICE THESE YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN MAKE TO SERVE OUR COUNTRY.

I ALSO KNOW THE SACRIFICES THEIR FAMILIES MAKE…. KNOWING THAT EVERY TIME THEIR LOVED ONE LEAVES IT MAY BE THE LAST TIME THEY SEE THEM.

I KNOW THE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS THEY FACE AND THE WORRY THEY FEEL EVERY SINGLE DAY WONDERING WHERE THEY ARE AND HOW THEY ARE DOING.

I KNOW ABOUT THE ANXIETY THAT COMES BETWEEN EACH CALL, LETTER OR E-MAIL.

MY PRAYERS FOR DAVID WERE ANSWERED WHEN HE RETURNED HOME TO THE UNITED STATES SAFE AND SOUND FROM THE MIDDLE EAST.

ON DAYS LIKE TODAY, HOWEVER, I AM REMINDED OF THE MANY OTHERS WHO DIDN’T MAKE IT HOME TO THEIR FAMILIES.

I THINK ABOUT THE MOTHERS OF THOSE BOYS WHO DIED THAT DAY IN IRAQ ON MSR TAMPA AND I’M REMINDED THAT FOR EVERY NAME ON THAT WALL THAT WE HONOR TODAY, WE MUST NOT FORGET THAT THERE IS A MOTHER AND FATHER...BROTHERS AND SISTERS…WIVES, HUSBANDS AND CHILDREN, WHO WERE LEFT BEHIND TO BEAR THE BURDEN OF FREEDOM’S SACRIFICE.

AS WE LOOK AT THE WALL JUST BEHIND US TODAY I AM REMINDED OF THE SUPREME SACRIFICE THESE MEN AND WOMEN HAVE MADE TO PROTECT OUR FREEDOMS!

ON THE WALL TODAY WE ADD THE NAME OF BOB SWADELL, A LONGTIME HENDERSON RESIDENT WHO HELPED TO CREATE THE VETERANS’ WALL AND OUR OWN CITY HALL.

AS A RETIRED ARMY LIEUTENANT COLONEL HE WAS PASSIONATE ABOUT OUR COMMUNITY AND ABOUT HONORING OUR VETERANS…. AND WE PAY TRIBUTE TO HIM HERE TODAY.

IN A VETERAN’S DAY SPEECH HE GAVE SEVERAL YEARS AGO HE SAID,

“THIS MEMORIAL AND THE NAMES INSCRIBED ON IT REPRESENT THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY THAT LOOKS FORWARD TO TOMORROW, BUT WILL NEVER TURN ITS BACK ON THOSE WHO MADE SURE WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO WORK, WORSHIP AND GROW AS WE SEE FIT….WE AGAIN NEED TO REMEMBER FOR ALL TIME THAT THE PRICE OF FREEDOM IS VERY COSTLY AND THE WIDOW[S] AND CHILDREN WHO GREW UP WITHOUT A PARENT ARE THE TESTIMONY OF HOW COSTLY THIS FREEDOM REALLY IS.”

TODAY, AS A COMMUNITY… AS A STATE … AND AS A NATION, WE GATHER TO HONOR ALL THOSE WHO HAVE SERVED AND SACRIFICED AND GIVEN THEIR BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS TO BUILD A COUNTRY WHERE WE CAN WORSHIP, SPEAK AND LIVE AS WE CHOOSE.

AS A MOTHER OF ONE WHO HAS SERVED AND SEEN THE PRICE THAT THOSE FREEDOMS REQUIRES… I WANT TO EXPRESS MY DEEPEST THANKS TO THOSE WHO GIVEN THEIR LIVES TO DEFEND OUR COUNTRY AND OUR FREEDOMS!!!

I’M GRATEFUL THAT WE HAVE THE BLUE STAR MOTHERS HERE TODAY, AND ALL THOSE WHO HAVE HAD FAMILY WHO’VE SERVED IN OUR ARMED FORCES. THERE IS AN UNSPOKEN BOND THAT EXISTS BETWEEN ANYONE WHO HAS HAD FAMILY IN THE MILITARY.

WE KNOW THE FEARS AND WORRIES OF HAVING SOMEONE IN HARMS WAY…YET THROUGH THAT WORRY AND FEAR, COMES A MUCH DEEPER APPRECIATION FOR SEEMINGLY SIMPLE THINGS THAT WE OFTEN TAKE FOR GRANTED.

THINGS LIKE THE NATIONAL ANTHEM BEFORE A BASEBALL GAME, OR THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE BEFORE A MEETING, THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE OUR COMMUNITY!

THESE ARE THE SYMBOLS OF OUR NATION, AND THE SYMBOLS THAT REPRESENT THE SERVICE OF THOUSANDS OF MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE ANSWERED THE CALL OF DUTY TO PROTECT THE COUNTRY AND LIBERTIES WE VALUE.

I PAY MY DEEPEST RESPECT TO THESE MEN AND WOMEN WE HONOR TODAY. THOSE WHOSE NAMES ARE INSCRIBED RECENTLY AND NOT SO RECENTLY, ON THE WALLS ABOVE US.

I PAY RESPECT TO THEIR FAMILIES, TO THEIR SACRIFICE AND SERVICE, FOR THEIR DEVOTION TO AN IDEAL…TO PRESERVING THE FREEDOMS YOU AND I ENJOY EVERY DAY…

THEIR SACRAFICE HAS MADE IT POSSIBLE TO LIVE IN THE GREATEST LAND IN THE WORLD!

BOB SWADELL ONCE SAID “IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CALCULATE THE EXTREME CONDITIONS THAT MANY ENDURED IN OUR PAST WARS. FROM THE LONELY AVIATOR TO THE FOOT SOLDIER WHO IS LIVING ON THE GROUND UNDER CONDITIONS WE CAN ONLY IMAGINE…WE CAN ONLY GUESS AT THE THOUSANDS OF TIMES THEY HAD TO REMIND THEMSELVES OF WHY THEY WERE THERE AND WHAT THEY WERE PROTECTING. NO ONE IN THE WORLD WILL VOLUNTARILY SUBMIT THEMSELVES TO THE DANGERS OF DEATH UNLESS THERE IS A CAUSE THAT MAKES IT WORTHWHILE.”

AND THAT’S THE QUESTION AND THE CHALLENGE BEFORE US TODAY. WHAT IS THAT CAUSE THAT MAKES THEIR SACRIFICE SO SIGNIFICANT AND WORTHWHILE…AND WHAT ARE WE PREPARED TO DO TO PRESERVE IT?

I AM REMINDED OF QUOTE BY A FAMOUS AMERICAN PRESIDENT JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY… ”ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU, BUT RATHER WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY!”

NONE OF THE MEN AND WOMEN WE HONOR TODAY ASKED WHAT THEIR COUNTRY COULD DO FOR THEM…THEY DEMONSTRATED WHAT THEY COULD AND WOULD DO FOR THEIR COUNTRY!

AS WE LEAVE HERE TODAY, MAY THAT THOUGHT LINGER ON IN OUR HEARTS AND MINDS.

WHAT IS IT THAT EACH OF US CAN DO THAT WILL INDIVIDUALLY HONOR THE SACRIFICE OF ALL THOSE WHOSE NAMES ARE WRITTEN ON OURS AND SO MANY OTHER WALLS ACROSS AMERICA?

JUST FOR TODAY…. IF SOMETHING STIRS IN YOUR HEART WHEN WE SEE THE SYMBOL OF OUR FREEDOM, THE AMERICAN FLAG... RISE UP AND PLACE YOUR HAND OVER YOUR HEART!

JUST FOR TODAY…ASK THE QUESTION ‘WHAT CAN I DO FOR MY COUNTRY, FOR MY COMMUNITY AND FOR MY FELLOW MAN?’

THEN… ACT ON IT!

AS WE GATHER HERE TO HONOR OUR VETERANS…TO HONOR THE COUNTRY THEY FOUGHT AND DIED TO DEFEND, MAY WE RECOMMIT OURSELVES TO PRINCIPLES THAT THEY AND THEIR FAMILIES SACRAFICED TO PROTECT.

I’VE HEARD IT SAID THAT AMERICA IS DEFINED EVERY DAY BY A MILLION ACTS OF KINDNESS.

MAY WE BE MINDFUL OF OUR ROLE IN WHAT WE MIGHT DO, EVERYDAY, TO MAKE THEIR SACRAFICE SIGNIFICANT IN OUR LIVES, AND IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

IN SO DOING WE HELP HONOR THEM AND THE PRINCIPLES THEY FOUGHT TO DEFEND.

MAY EACH OF US DO OUR PART TO LIFT OUR NEIGHBORS, TO SERVE OUR COMMUNITIES, AND, TO EACH IN OUR OWN WAY, SHOW OUR RESPECT FOR THEIR SERVICE THROUGH OUR DAILY ACTIONS.

THIS IS A GREAT COUNTRY…FOUNDED ON GREAT PRINCIPLES…AND I AM TRULY GRATEFUL FOR THE MEN AND WOMEN WE HONOR TODAY WHO HAVE SERVED TO DEFEND IT.

AS A MOTHER…AS A CITY COUNCILWOMAN…AND AS AN AMERICAN…I THANK YOU.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SERVICE. GOD BLESS EACH OF YOU AND GOD BLESS THIS GREAT COUNTY. THANK YOU.