Honoring those who serve

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Early showers and dark skies parted Sunday as Gov. Bob Riley and State Auditor Beth Chapman joined other state and local officials to honor veterans on the lawn of the Shelby County Courthouse.

The event is hosted by the South Shelby County Chamber of Commerce each year on the Sunday before Veterans Day.

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe set the tone for the day.

He told fellow veterans that there are one or two days at best when the sacrifices they and their families make are set aside and lifted up.

&8220;It’s not enough. But anybody can tell you, who’s a veteran, (the honor is) not what you do it for … we don’t do it for the money. We sure don’t do it for the food. We don’t do it for the accommodations. We don’t do it for the wonderful travel opportunities either. We do it because it fills a need that we have to serve our country and to be a part of our community.&8221;

Lowe’s return from Army National Guard service during Operation Enduring Freedom in Germany and Turkey marked the end of a seven-month odyssey for the town of Columbiana and the long-awaited return of a son, husband and father to two little ones.

His absence for military duty placed the city of Columbiana on the map for removing a town’s current elected mayor from active civic service to his city for active military service to his country.

Earl Niven, mayor of Chelsea, brought the invocation for the occasion. He thanked God for the sacrifices veterans have made throughout history so that, &8220;We can observe the freedoms that we have in America today.&8221;

State Rep. Mike Hill introduced Gov. Riley.

Riley spoke of the ride from Montgomery, the changing color of the leaves and the beautiful sky he saw as he traveled to Shelby County to honor veterans.

&8220;That’s about as good as it gets in my book,&8221; he said.

&8220;Sometimes we take it (all) for granted, and it’s amazing that we do. Think about what you have today. Think about all the ways that we have been blessed. Think of how God has blessed this county and how God has blessed every one of you that is standing here today.

&8220;That did not happen by accident. It happened because for over 200 years, this country was built on something that no other country in the world had. It was a belief in democracy, but it was also a belief that this country was founded on prayer and on a moral code that has not changed for over 200 years.&8221;

Riley continued: &8220;But none of it … not one single day of the freedoms that we have today would exist if it wasn’t for the men and women fought … some gave that last full measure of devotion … some came home with lives that were torn asunder …

&8220;For over 200 years, every time without exception when the nation called men and women stepped forward to do whatever it took to preserve the things that we take for granted every day.&8221;

The governor paused to ask every veteran to stand, &8220;because I don’t want one of these heroes sitting next to you and you not know it.&8221;

He thanked them for their sacrifice.

The governor recalled the book by Tom Brokaw titled &8220;The Greatest Generation&8221; about those who served in World War II.

&8220;That was my dad’s generation,&8221; Riley said. &8220;And to be honest with you ladies and gentlemen, it was one of the most unique generations we have ever produced … That World War II generation had a different code. They had a different sense of responsibility. They came back home. They never really emphasized what they did. And back then they didn’t serve six months tour runs or a year tour. They left home and said we’ll come back when the war is over … some of them gone two or three years … some of them never came home.&8221;

Riley said as a Congressman he has also seen the men and women serving in the military today

who &8220;are as professional and as dedicated as anyone who could have ever served this country before.&8221;

Riley addressed those who would ask President George W. Bush to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. But the governor stressed, &8220;Ladies and gentlemen, in my opinion that is not an option.

&8220;This is a war we got into to liberate a country … We can never pull out without a total victory in the Middle East today.&8221;

Riley spoke of the duty of calling the family of loved ones killed.

He asked that whenever anyone picked up a newspaper or heard that another Alabamian has been killed, &8220;Don’t view it as a statistic. Stop wherever you are when you hear it and thank God for that level of sacrifice and that dedication.&8221;

Following a rendition of &8220;How Great Thou Art&8221; by Paula Head, State Auditor Beth Chapman, a North Shelby resident, spoke on patriotism.

Her speech at a Stand Up for America Rally in 2003 led to a book &8220;The Power of Patriotism.&8221;

&8220;We are here to honor veterans today because you epitomize courage and the spirit of freedom in America … because you have worn the uniform, fought the battles, won the wars and earned the right for all of our freedoms. I salute you and thank you today from the bottom of my heart.&8221;

In addition to Lowe and Niven, local mayors on hand included Westover Mayor Mark McLaughlin, Vincent Mayor Terry Allen, Wilsonville Mayor Rosemary Liveoak, Calera Mayor George Roy and Montevallo Mayor Sharon Anderson.

Shelby County and Vincent High School U.S. Army Junior ROTC posted and retired the colors.

Boy Scout Troop 560 lowered the flag to half-staff.