This year’s featured speaker was retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dave Roush, who talked about the importance of military service and the sacrifices veterans make for their country after they take the Oath of Enlistment.
He spoke about a World War II veteran he knew named Ed, and his admiration for the man who was one of the Marines who fought at the Battle of Peleliu and survived despite that battle having the highest casualty rate per number of soldiers involved than any other battle in the Pacific Theater.
“Everyone who raised their hand and took that oath made the promise that Ed made. If you want me to do it, I’ll do it. I’ll obey the orders of the officers appointed over me,” Roush said.
“If you want me to guard the perimeter at midnight in Iceland when its 22 degrees with 50-knot winds by walking around the perimeter with a rifle in my arm, I’ll do that. That’s what you say when you take that oath. If you want me to spend six months at sea away from family, I’ll do that.”
Roush served as a pilot during the Vietnam War and flew many dangerous missions but said he felt his service time was easy compared to Ed’s.
Roush said during World War II, 25 percent of the country’s men were in the military, which was 12 percent of the country’s population. Today there are only around 1.3 million people in uniform, which is only .4 percent of the country’s population.
“I wondered, ‘do we still have some Eds,’ and the good news is, ‘yes we do,’” Roush said, citing several examples he had seen and heard during the recent military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Roush’s son is an Apache helicopter pilot for the Army who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and said he was impressed with the professionalism of the personnel he saw in his son’s unit.
Also in the program, Tommy Moore explained the elements of the empty table in honor of the nation’s prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Joe Hassell explained the meaning and significance of the battlefield cross, where a fallen soldier’s boots, helmet, gun and dog tags are arranged as a symbol of honor and respect.
Ed Jenkins spoke about the pride he felt for the soldiers who died in battle and asked everyone to pray for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting last week.
Post Commander Jim Heigl gave a brief history of the American Legion and spoke about how the organization still serves its country today. The ceremony closed with the playing of “Taps.”