GLASGOW – As a young boy, Jason Adkison saw great examples in both his grandfathers who answered the call to serve their country and went forth to defend the freedoms that Americans enjoy every day, he said.
“I listened intently about places like Saipan, Tinian and Gaum, the Marshall and Gilbert Islands ....” the former U.S. Marine corporal told the dozens of military veterans and area community members who had gathered for an annual meal celebrating Veterans Day at the Kentucky Army National Guard Armory on Friday.
He named other places as well, like De Nang and Saigon, where so many went, including some in that room, before he moved on to discuss to other things he thinks about when contemplating heroism – words like “brotherhood” and “courage,” he said.
“[Veterans] go forth to serve causes greater than themselves, giving hope and opportunity for future generations to have a new life,” Adkison said. “Veterans are defenders of our basic constitutional rights. They swear an oath to protect and defend our American values, principles and our way of life. A veteran is someone who has put their life on pause and is willing to give up everything for their country.”
When he was 17, he said, he found himself following those examples and principles as he entered Parris Island, South Carolina, to train for the USMC.
“Mom cried when I left, and Dad just signed the paperwork,” Adkison said. “I was stepping into an unknown territory to secure a future for a family of my own that didn't even exist yet. I learned many lessons very quickly, lessons of perseverance and never quitting and never giving up.”
He often thought of this grandfathers and what they went through and used that as his motivation.
“I was going to make them proud,” he said, thinking of the “extreme challenges that they must have endured but never spoke of.”
He said he learned that whatever you think your limits are, “they're actually whole lot further than that.”
“When I received that eagle, globe and anchor, it was one of the greatest moments in my life, because I made my family proud, and I was following the memory and traditions of those that had gone before me,” Adkison said.
He said he felt the honor of wearing that uniform and holding the title of a Marine, and felt he had already conquered the world, but that was only the beginning of a long journey ahead.
Adkison served from 2004 to 2008 with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Charlie Company, and he had deployments to Ramadi and Fallujah in Iraq.
He spoke about some of the hardships all veterans experience, like missing holidays, birthdays and births of children to be in a war zone. He had deployments with no hot water or hot food, no showers and no electricity, with no days off, he said.
“But we provided liberties to those who were once oppressed by powerful dictators,” Adkison said.
Veterans do these things because it's their calling, their duty, he said.
“We do these things because we love our country and our way of life. And we love our sacred flag and what it stands for,” Adkison said. “Through all of these shared hardships, we form an inseparable bond, a true lifelong brotherhood. Many of us left home as boys and returned as men.”
Adkison had earlier said he was honored and humbled to be the guest speaker helping to celebrate Veterans Day with the many from “the world's greatest fighting force,” but he was also among his Marine Corps brothers who were celebrating the 242nd anniversary of the formation of the corps.
“Happy birthday, Marines,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for me to demonstrate my appreciation and respect for those veterans who honorably served and paved the way for me.”
The 2013 graduate of Western Kentucky University now works for the Kentucky State Police.
He also spoke of how what is now called Veterans Day came into being, to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when an armistice or cease fire was signed in Paris, France, to end World War I, and President Woodrow Wilson declared a year later, in 1919, that a moment of silence should be observed in remembrance.
“On Veterans Day we pause to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans,” Adkison said. “They're owed the deepest respect and thanks for their endured hardships.”
He said the day is not just about a date on the calendar. It's about gathering and sharing stories that need to be told as a guiding light for today's generations, like those of his grandfathers were for him, but also in response to their own invisible scars of war and that can aid healing of the burdens they carry back home after the last shots are fired.
At various times throughout the evening, the Glasgow Community Band played patriotic music, and prior to Adkison's speech the Barren County High School Junior ROTC performed a missing-man table ceremony in remembrance of prisoners of war and service members missing in action.