Following is the speech given by Brigadier General Joe Campbell, one of the two speakers at the Veterans Day dedication of the Veterans Wall at Springlake-Earth ISD on November 11, 2003.
Curt, thank you for your most gracious introduction. I would like to welcome the Mayor of Earth, Honorable Doug Parish, Mayor of Springlake, Honorable Fuzzy Watson, Veterans Wall committee members, and friends.
With me today is my wife Betsy, our daughter Jennifer and her husband, Lt. Col. Skip Hinman, and our three grandsons, Parker, Hunter, and Chase.
It is especially heart warming to see all these youngsters here. It seems like only a few years ago that I was running, excuse me, walking the halls of the high school building and running across to the cafeteria for lunch. It's funny how memories come back. I remember once in a science class when we were seniors we boiled a coyote so that we could reassemble the skeleton. Seems that project did not get too far, as the smell drove everybody out of the building. Mrs. McCaskill was most understanding with some of our projects. I would like to say to each student here: continue your education, because education is your key to the future and the future of America.
Having grown up in this community, there are many names displayed on the Veterans Wall that I recognize and many are those that I was in school with. Such an honorable thing, recognition of our local veterans, how else other than something like the Memorial Veterans Wall that we are dedicating today, will future generations from this area know to whom they can acknowledge the freedom that they enjoy daily. I am sure that each of you here today knows about the WALL. Made up of "bricks" with names and dates etched into each one. These bricks are not just a glob of clay pressed and dried, but represent someone who was willing to sacrifice his or her personal freedom when called to duty. As you look at the wall, you will notice that each brick has the name of an individual and the dates of their service to our country. The first date is when each joined the military; the second shows when they completed their service. You may not have consciously even noticed the small dash between those dates. This is what I'd like to focus on today. The small dash. . .and the time it represents. . .that's what really counts. When I look at that little dash I see hardship. . .suffering. . .and pain. I see the sacrifices of so many service members and equally important, the loved ones they left behind. This dash represents the many friends we made. . .and lost. . .during war. The physical and emotional scars we brought home. One such example of what happened where the dash is, is a story I recently heard. . .It seems that one of our community members was serving in the Navy during World War II and his ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. Having gone below decks for a break between attacks, he was again called back when another attack commenced. He went back to man his gun, which was three stories above the water, and in his haste, forgot to put on his shoes. Unfortunately his ship was hit and was sinking rapidly. As the fires were burning and the ship sinking, he started looking for his shoes when a buddy from Levelland asked him where he was going. He said that he wanted to find his shoes. His buddy said, "There are no grassburrs out here." But by then the ship had sunk so quickly that all he had to do was just step into the water. Shoes. . .optional I would think. (Rex Clayton)
Each of you enjoys freedom each and every day. But do you think or consider that this freedom is not free? I would venture that you do not. Our veterans paid dearly for every freedom guaranteed in our Constitution, particularly those in the Bill of Rights. So many veterans sacrificed their health, their limbs, their mental well being and most of all, some gave the ultimate, their life.
Freedom . . . Just what does such a small word mean. I am not going to give you the Webster's dictionary definition, but my understanding of just what the word means. Freedom gives each of us the capability to DO what we want, GO where we want, WORSHIP how we want, and especially, SAY what we please. In just how many countries in the world is this available? Very few, I would submit. All because of VETERANS, like the ones whose names are engraved on each brick in OUR wall.
Also represented here today are some heroes whose names you won't find on the wall. Yes, we have memorialized many important people with this wall. However, for those of us who have been to war, we know that the biggest heroes are the ones left behind. . . the wives . . . the children . . . the parents . . .who fight their own battles at home. While soldiers fight our country's wars overseas, loved ones sacrifice immensely, fearing the unspeakable. Wives must learn, in many cases, to manage finances, how to get things repaired around the house, car repairs, carry on the business, be both a Mother and a Father to children, and many, many, more things to keep those home fires burning.
Today we are making NEW veterans; veterans of conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, in the jungles of the Philippines, in the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea, and the most current conflict that we all hear about all too much--Iraq. My heart is heavy, because I, like other veterans, know the hardships of military service. I know the agony of war; I know what we are asking even today, from the new generation of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp, and the Coast Guard. Just what are some of the things that these men and women today are giving up to help insure our continued freedom and the freedom of those who are oppressed and under the domination of leaders who only care for what is good for them? Being with loved ones, home cooked meals, warm clothes, friends, just to mention a few things. There is a bond between veterans, and only when you have given up some of these things can you understand. I think being separated from my loved ones was perhaps the most lasting hardship I endured during my 33 years of military service. I have traveled around the world many times. Many times when I would return home after being gone for weeks or months, my oldest daughter would say in the same breath, " Daddy, what did you bring me and when are you leaving?" That hurts . . .
I mentioned about traveling around the world. While doing this traveling, I have had the opportunity to see how peoples of other countries exist. To be allowed to travel when and where one likes is limited in many countries. Can you imagine what it would be like NOT to be able to be here today? To not go to the Dairy Queen, the coffee shop, church, football games, or to the bank to meet with friends when you wanted? The loss of that FREEDOM would really hurt. Only because of our VETERANS can we do these things. Mere words on Veterans Day cannot discharge our country's debt to the men and women whose sacrifices paid the price of this freedom.
As I speak to you today, young men and women from communities across the country much like ours are scattered throughout the world definding the freedom that we have as Americans and, because of their sacrifices, other countries enjoy freedom as well. We as a nation owe so much to those Americans who have given so much. We must never forget those who have fought in yesterday's wars . . .and those who continue to fight today.
In closing I would like to quote the following:
So, ladies and gentlemen, our freedom today is because the men and women such as those we honor here today were willing to give of themselves.
Thank you, and may God bless each of you and God bless the United States of America.