FREEDOM — A 21-gun salute by members of the Disabled American Veterans of Glasgow-Barren County, Chapter 20, was observed on Saturday by those who turned out for the annual veterans program in the Freedom community of Barren County.
Not present for the program this year was Mike Wilson, who died on Sept. 16 following a brief illness.
Wilson was active with the DAV, serving in several capacities, including the color guard. He was a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War.
A moment of silence for him, as well as Dick Richey, was observed at the beginning of the program.
Taking Wilson's place with the color guard is Bruce Wilcoxson, also a Vietnam veteran.
Being in charge of the color guard is something Wilcoxson described as being “very stressful.”
“You have to have enough guys to post the color guard,” he said. “And that's not always easy to do. These guys are old. They are worn out, but they come out anyway.”
It was the color guard that performed a 21-gun salute during the program, and it was Wilcoxson who played “Taps” on the trumpet.
Wilcoxson has been with the DAV for about six years.
“When I get these guys all together it's a true pleasure,” he said. “When we get 12 of them out there, I'm just tickled to death. When we get seven that's just marginal.”
Most of the veterans who make up the DAV are Vietnam veterans.
“We have, of course, Mr. Moore, who was World War II,” Wilcoxson said. “He falls out with us every time we go. He's here every time we go.”
Eugene Moore talked briefly about his military service during WW II after the program while making a cup of coffee.
Moore said he loves programs like the one at Freedom.
“It's a good crowd,” he said. “Of course they have a bigger crowd in town, but for a community, they have a good service,” he said.
Moore was drafted into the Army at the age of 18 and deployed overseas at 19.
He fought battles in France and Germany. For those who may not know what it is like to fight in a military battle, Moore said: “It's not good. But it's an experience. I had to go. I've got no regrets.”
He served in the Army for 26 months and when he returned home he farmed for a while before taking a job in construction.
“At one time I lived about a mile and a half down the road here,” he said.
Guest speaker for the event was retired Army Major Mark Biggers of Glasgow.
Biggers talked about his own personal military experience. He also talked about the U.S. military producing warriors like Moore and his fellow servicemen, who are often referred to as being members of the “greatest generation,” as well as those who are now serving in the military.
“I went through basic training as an ROTC officer candidate back in 1975. That was a time in which young men and women were trained to be warriors, but it wasn't a very good time to be a soldier,” he said. “Given the post Vietnam national feelings at the time. We were sort of pariahs. As a matter of fact in the ROTC at Western, we grew our hair long and we sort of blended in until we repelled down the stupid side of the parking garage.”
He pointed out that since 1975, the U.S. has had an all volunteer army.
“We're truly fortunate in that regard that we still produce warriors,” he said.
“We have a great generation of young warriors today, who have been to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, northern and central Africa and the Middle East.”
He also talked about special forces who recently cornered Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State group, during a raid in Syria last week.
“The very next day the number two guy disappeared,” Biggers said.
He described warriors as servants.
“They are called upon to bear unswerving allegiance in carrying out their nation's political agenda to the risk of their life and limb with little explanation to protect their fellow citizens with no promise of gratitude and to surrender their own rights and freedoms so the people can better enjoy their own,” he said.
Biggers also said veterans have a common bond whether or not they serve on the front line.
“Veterans from the beginning are a certain breed that has stepped forward and crossed the line from protected to protector, from citizen to servant and from civilian to military” he said. “Each new generation of soldier, sailor, airman and marine discover this common bond that forever links him or her to their predecessors.”
At one time or another, all veterans left the ones they love the most behind.
“We went to preserve freedom. That's what makes us all free, but freedom can't preserve itself so please keep that in mind,” he said.