Archive for Wednesday, November 17, 2004

McLouth students learn about patriotism

November 17, 2004

Boone Sorrell was among those who stood during the playing of the Marines' Hymn.

The McLouth High School junior who attended Friday's Veterans Day assembly, has family members who have served in the U.S. Marines. And, after he completes college, he plans to enlist as well.

For Boone, one of the messages he'll carry from this year's assembly is the importance of voting.

"I think everybody in the United States should vote," Boone said. "It's like the voters are the government."

That comment would likely please Maj. Victor Hamilton, who spoke to the students at the assembly.

Hamilton asked students to indicate by raising their hands, whether they think voting is a right or a privilege.

"You're both wrong," said Hamilton, an attack helicopter pilot. "It is your duty to register and vote because that is the act of you taking ownership in your country."

Hamilton drew chuckles when he admitted that when he was in high school, assemblies were something to be dreaded.

He told the students he'd fall asleep during assemblies, only to be wakened by a watchful teacher tapping him.

When his teacher told him he couldn't sleep during assemblies, his reaction was this: "I was sure I could sleep just fine if she would quit tapping me."

In those days, when the country was not at war, a Veterans Day assembly might not have been taken with the respect it was due.

"I remember sitting where you are, listening to veterans recount numerous courageous events and their respective historical implications," Hamilton said to the students, faculty and community members who gathered for the assembly. "I was fascinated by their exploits; however, I paid little attention at the time. Why should I? I lived in the safest, most powerful country in the world. That was the 1980s."

The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed that, Hamilton said.

"Al Qaeda and their many terrorist operatives celebrated as the death count increased," Hamilton said. "They cared little of the fact that thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, were mercilessly slaughtered."

Hamilton said he was now assured of two things: "Al Qaeda has greatly underestimated the incredible American resolve and have seriously miscalculated the capability of your armed forces."

As Hamilton spoke, students kept their eyes on him. The audience of several hundred was silent.

Hamilton advised the students to take full advantage of their futures to put their lives to good use.

"Remember as you go there are many who will die fighting for you and there are many who will die today," Hamilton said.

Hamilton's speech was emotional.

His voice broke while reading the names Kansans, some of them his friends, who have been killed or wounded in the Iraq conflict.

"Today ... our friends and neighbors are honoring their fallen heroes in local high schools across the country," Hamilton said. "This list is long, let it not be in vain."

Hamilton spoke of the importance of showing appreciation to everyone in the military today, as well as veterans.

He noted members of the 891st Engineer Battalion from Pittsburg, Kan., are training to go to Iraq.

"Some of you may know members of this unit or other units preparing to deploy," Hamilton said. "Make a point to thank them, hug them and pray for them."

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