It was PPI’s privilege to attend the recent 9-11 Honorarium Unveiling Ceremony in Duluth Town Square. This ceremony, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, was a tribute to not just those whose lives were lost on 9/11, but for veterans and all those who currently serve us and protect us on a daily basis, from Police, to Firemen, to EMS and to the Military. Below you will read the tribute from keynote speaker Kelly Kelkenberg, Colonel, USAF, Ret .
“It is my privilege to stand before you today to remind you of why we are here and who we are here to honor. I have served our great country in many ways over my life-time to include service with the United States Air Force where I got to see up close and personal the sacrifices all service members make. I have also been privileged to work closely with first responders at the local, state and federal level before and after the events of 9-11-01 as a part of both my military as well as in my civilian career. I feel truly blessed to have worked closely with so many Great Americans.
In a celebrity-obsessed culture where shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” generate large followings, it is important to remember just who the real stars of America are.
Commentator, economist, and part-time actor Ben Stein wrote several years ago:
“The real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to the road north of Baghdad. He approached it and the bomb went off and killed him. A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it – just as it exploded. He left a family in California and left a little girl alive in Baghdad.”
Today’s celebration is a time to honor not just the heroes that Mr. Stein describes, but in fact, all of the outstanding men and women who not only serve in our Nation’s armed forces but also the firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel, the 911 Operators, and the many other dedicated public servants who serve us on a daily basis here at home. I also want to point out that many of these public servants are also military veterans in their own right.
President Calvin Coolidge was known as “Silent Cal” because he didn’t say very much, but he was positively profound when he said,
“The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.”
I believe President Coolidge would include our first responders and those who support them in his definition of “defender” if he were alive today.
Not all responders, soldiers or veterans have seen destruction or mass casualties, or war, but a common bond that they share is an oath. An oath in which they expressed their willingness to die, protecting and defending their community and their country.
Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Coast Guard cutter, the Navy aircraft carrier or the Army soldier on patrol in a far off country. Here at home the vigilance and presence of our police officers and the rapid response of our front-line first responders affords us all a similar effect—peace of mind!!
We are here today to show our support not just the families whose loved ones are still deployed and those who return permanently changed by the wounds of war. We are here to show our appreciation for those who serve us in unsung roles in our community’s each and every day. While we are happy to be here today to express our appreciation for our living veterans, those currently serving and their families, and our local responders in uniform or not true appreciation is expressed through deeds as well as words.
Do not ever underestimate the power of simply saying “Thank You” to our responders and veterans that you encounter. There are approximately 23 million living Americans that have earned the title “veteran”, including those who continue to serve in uniform. Millions more serve us in our communities, as proud public servants. A sincere thank you may not be enough to offset the burden our fellow public servants face but it is enough to bring a renewed faith in their chosen occupation.
The burden of defending and serving our great nation is shared by men and women alike. I would be remiss to not mention that women are major contributors to our military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in our first responder force here at home. Many have given their lives in the War on Terrorism both at home and abroad.
While Americans owe these heroes a debt that cannot be fully repaid, showing our appreciation is the least that we can do. There are many ways you can do this.
Whether it’s welcoming veterans home from deployment, volunteering at the local VA hospital, completing a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class, participating in the Citizens Fire Academy, or completing a Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program to any of the many opportunities available throughout the metro area there is no shortage of opportunities to assist those who give so much for their country. As you can see there is an abundance of opportunities to show your support for our locally serving public servants, be they in uniform or not. They continue to serve and proudly defend our cherished way of life.
In spite of the sacrifices that these servants have made and the horrors that some have experienced, they are proud to serve.
I believe nineteenth century British philosopher John Stuart Mill summed up the necessity of this special group of people when he wrote:
“The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
Mill had it right then and it is still true today. Fortunately, for all of us, America has been blessed though out its history by many such men and women. Men and women who have not only heard but acted upon the words of President John F. Kennedy who famously said:
“And so, my fellow Americans–ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country!”
Thank you for being here today this tenth anniversary of the first attack on United States of America on its own soil. I salute you. God Bless America and God bless our public servants and veterans past and present.” … by Kelvin “Kelly” Kelkenberg, Colonel, USAF, Ret.