Saturday, May 28, 2011


The Memorial Day ceremony was held at the Carroll County Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday, May 28th, 2011. Vice President Bill Cowart welcomed everyone and Chaplain Bruce Holley gave the invocation. Don Levans introduced Gordon Chandler the designer and creator of the soldier statues and shared some information about them. He dedicated them as follows, “On this day, May 28 the year of our Lord 2011 – we dedicate our “Three Soldier” Patrol – to the protection of the Carroll County Veterans Memorial Park from here to eternity. Because of the outstanding support of Carroll County citizens, our public officials, civic organizations, families of veterans and veterans themselves, we are able to continue to add to what has become one of the most beautiful and meaningful Memorials in any County anywhere.”

President Norris Garrett introduced the speaker, Dr. Keith Berry and the following was taken from his notes: “First, I want to begin with a thank you. It is a great honor to be asked by the Veteran’s Memorial Park committee to stand before you today. But more importantly, on behalf of this crowd, on behalf of this community and on behalf of the men and women whose names are on these walls, I want to thank you for keeping the names, lives and sacrifices of America’s heroes forefront in our minds.

Honored veterans and those who love them – I stand before you a relatively young man. I have a few but ever increasing number of gray hairs and like Elihu in the book of Job, I know that my words should be the last to be uttered when compared to the older and wiser men and women of this audience. Still I appreciate this opportunity. I approach the next few minutes with caution, knowing that these thought were not mine ten years ago. And with the wisdom of years, they will probably not be mine ten years from now.

Before I get into my comments, I know that some of you want to hear a good story or two. A glimpse into my time in the military - I entered the military in a very odd way. Four years of medical school costs about a quarter of a million dollars, because I was about a quarter of a million dollars short, I asked Uncle Sam to foot the bill and I would serve as a combat physician for four years after my training. Well a funny thing happened while I was at Duke, I realized that while I enjoyed medicine, I really didn’t like doctors too much. So when it was time for me to go on active duty, I asked the Air Force if they had any other jobs they thought I might be good at. Unwilling to let me out of such a huge investment, they told me they would train me to be a flight surgeon and would let me be a F-15 backseater, if I would also take care of troops everyday once my flying duties were over.

Now listen, you can say all you want about government bureaucracy and waste, but they got their money out of me. Sometimes I would land in a country and be the only American or NATO doctor there. Well, you can do all that in your twenties.

Most of my good war stories are classified. Not that the government has it classified, but with my mother in the audience, I have classified much of it “need to know” and most of it she doesn’t need to know. Although I have been out of military service for over three years, I know she would have nightmares if she heard the story how during a thunderstorm one evening about two months after 9/11, 6 hours into a 8 hour sortie my frontseater and I were putting on our night vision goggles and got disoriented and flipped our F-15 only to discover we were racing at the ground with a few seconds to spare. Or if she knew my wife was 3 months pregnant at that time and I had no life insurance. I don’t think I should tell that one.

Instead I will tell you the story of the night we were flying in Operation Southern Watch. The first time I felt genuinely frightened. We were flying pretty low near the Iraqi border when lightening seemed to be sipping up from the ground. I had never seen Anti-Aircraft Artillery and wasn’t sure this was it, so I wasn’t too bothered by being shot at. All of a sudden our flight leader’s voice called out in my helmet “don’t worry that’s just soldiers shooting up in the air at random. It would have to be a real lucky shot in order to hit us.” I’m sure he had good intentions, I’m really certain he did. But he didn’t know that I had done some dove hunting and that I had killed a few doves in my day using the exact same marksmanship method. I had personal experience with the hitting flying objects with a random lucky shot and I knew how effective it could be and I didn’t want people shooting in my direction – aiming or random. Wow, I remember the adrenaline and the rush. Safe in my bed at night I thought war was fun.
At the dawn of my fourth decade I stopped flying and returned to the military medical system to complete my surgical training. This was during the initial build-up of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the first time that I saw the effects of war up close and personal. Daily soldiers would be evacuated to the Army Hospital with devastating eye and face injuries – many permanently blinded, most hopelessly disfigured by burns. I distinctly remember standing tall at the bedside of these fallen warriors at a stateside hospital. I would speak to patients and families confidently, enthusiastically, respectfully, with full military bearing. Then when my job was done I would walk slowly to the closest bathroom and sob like a child. Those months were some of the most challenging of my life. It was during this time – this difficult time – many of us caring for the war wounded began to contemplate the true meaning of sacrifice. Not just death, but giving up ones arms, legs, face, vision or entire way of life for one’s country. And now I have a very different perspective on how to honor the fallen.

Throughout history every society, every culture, every country has proclaimed special days to honor those who die “For King and Country.” But, I believe that America is different or should be different. Memorial Days, Veterans Day, Pearl Harbor day – these events – like their sister events in countries around the world are needed. But they cannot be the only remembrance of our veterans. In America, these holidays must be the beginning of our salute to our fallen. If Memorial Day is our only homage paid to the fallen heroes of our country then we are hypocrites. We are like the man in the old preacher’s story who shows up every Sunday morning throws a 5 in collection plate and then acts like a heathen the other 167 hours of the week. Memorial Day must be a symbol of how we live day after day, in a deep appreciation for the sacrifices made for each of us.

When I was a child I remember attending the “funeral” of a friend’s favorite pet. Words were spoken, songs were sung, and the gravesite was marked with a wooden headstone so the child could visit. With time, the visits were less frequent, the dog forgotten and slowly nearby woods swallowed the marker with weeds and overgrowth. Now, compare this with the death of an old oak tree. No plaque, no marker, no eulogy – just hundreds and hundreds of acorns. But, over time that great oak is better memorialized by the growth of those left behind. In America, the death and disfigurement of our warriors cannot be adequately memorialized by plaques and pomp, by VA benefits and a few tax breaks. It must be seen in the daily lives and the growth of the citizenry that remain.

So today, I view us, each of us, as acorns and saplings of the strong oak-like warriors whose names are written around us. Honor them with granite and brass. That’s okay. But more importantly, honor them by becoming like them. Honor them by emulating the lives they gave up. Each person who has laid down his life for this country whether male or female; rich or poor; black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Middle-Eastern, Native American – each had one quality that I dare you to grow in your personal life! A sacrificial spirit!

I grew up with the great oral traditions of the south. I know stories about the great depression, WW II maneuvers, ration stamps, victory gardens passed down from my great grandmother and grandparents. I know my grandmother cooked breakfast, helped in the barn, caught a ride into town, walked a mile to the factory, worked a full shift, walked a mile to catch a ride home, made dinner, milked the cows and raised twin daughters and helped care for parents, in-laws and her brothers and sisters – this day to day sacrifice was the NORM for her generation. People were honored and celebrated for their sacrifice.

In college my friends would make fun of me because if I liked someone, I would always seem to say that person was a “hard-worker.” It was the highest compliment I would hear in my family – “he’s a good guy, a real hard worker.” But today we do not see that. Or if we see this “hard working” side of American life, it is not lifted up, it is not honored, it’s considered sad. “She worked hard her whole life.”

Today, the honored, the celebrated, the heroes of American culture are the ballplayers, the singers, the actors, CEOs, moneymakers, the movers and shakers. Today the honored are not the ones who GIVE honor or sacrifice, but the ones who DEMAND honor and sacrifice from others. Sacrifice has become a dirty word in America. Conversations about sacrifice are relegated to churches, mosques, synagogues and local service clubs – and even they have a hard time getting their members to serve. It seems each person feels they sacrifice enough already and that what is needed is more sacrifice from others!

Today, I want to inspire you (not y’all) but you, and you, and you to give more! Give more to your country, give more to each other. Take back the honor and satisfaction that can only be found in the hard work of sacrifice and service to others. Thankfully, most of us will not be required to give the sacrifice made by the people on these walls. But if you want to honor these men and women by emulating their lives you must become the sacrificial leaders of this community. So how is this done?

First sacrificial leadership is personal. It cannot be imitated it cannot be delegated. It must be demonstrated. It cannot be done from the ivory tower of good ideas or good intentions. It cannot be done from the 18th or 19th hole at the local course; it cannot be done from fishing boats or fancy parties in the name of charity. Sacrificial leadership is like war. It puts you in dirty, strange places with people unlike yourself. Sacrifice is by definition uncomfortable. The smells can be nasty and the sounds haunting. It will stir your conscious and may cause sleepless nights and disturbing dreams. And when you do it right, regardless of your military bearing, you will find yourself weeping for those in need.

As Americans (especially Southern Americans) we pride ourselves on our tradition and ethic of liberty, justice, hard work, and hospitality. Our history is full of barn raisings, quilting bees, working fields, and neighbor helping neighbor. Ladies and gentlemen, in today’s economy and today’s moral vacuum there is more need of neighborly kindness and service than ever before. If you want the America of today and tomorrow to be better than the America of the past, if you want to truly honor the sacrifices of fallen warriors, then make America better – by serving.
Right now there are people stepping up to serve right here in this community. Because of the job I have, I meet about 5,000 people every year. Like the veterans I used to care for every day, each of my patients has a story to tell. And some of their stories of service are inspiring; grandmothers and grandfathers who are parenting for a second time, unwilling to let their grandchildren slip through the cracks. They forgo retirement to sacrifice for their family and for this nation.

Foster parents and adoptive parents who, for the sake of the nation, create a family to nurture unwanted children, preparing them to be givers to our society and not takers. Did you know here in Carroll County there are wives and mothers who befriend and help single moms to serve as mentors and advocates for them; teachers who quietly organize food and supplies for the children in their classes who would undoubtedly be hungry during the summer break. There are school children who make potholders, lemonade stands, and grow small gardens so they can give of the fruit of their labor to the local soup kitchen. There are men who use their weekends to care for the widows near them; retirees who meet daily with the poor and homeless to train them for a job. These opportunities are visible all around you. If you care enough to see them!
Can you read and write? You can find many children in this community who need an adult who will take an interest in them. Meet with them two hours a week; mentor them; tutor them, show them that you expect great things from them. You can show them that they are valuable because someone on these walls was willing to give their life for them and you are willing to give a part of your life for them, too.

Have you retired from your job? Well you cannot retire from being a sacrificial leader! Discover those struggling around you. Many feel hopeless, many feel helpless or worthless. Get involved in their life. Bring them to this park and explain they are not worthless. That this airman, this Marine, this soldier, that sailor; men and women who never knew them were willing to lay down their lives so THEY could have freedom, THEY could have opportunity. All Americans have value because of the price that has been paid for them.

Ladies and gentlemen, with time, this memorial park will be no more. The granite will break and the brass will tarnish. Raised letters will be weathered flat. That is what happens with matter and things over time. But the human spirit is so very different.

Let us strive to create memorials that are enduring – lives inspired by sacrifice and willing to pay that forward by serving others. Let us produce a citizenry that demands service and excellence from the future generations by demonstrating excellence and showing today’s children that sacrifice is the American way.

Goodness, self-respect, self-sacrifice – these fleeting values must be the pillars and backbone of American culture. We are losing these qualities. Not because our laws aren’t tough enough, but because our children are not seeing these qualities in us. Morality cannot be legislated, it must be demonstrated. Now, we can bemoan these facts, we shutter as the light on the hilltop wanes, we can decry the fall of America. But ladies and gentlemen, if that is all you do, then America is lost, already. You must act.

The call today is the same call heeded by the warriors on the walls surrounding us. America is in peril, we need men and women to defend her. Not from foreign enemies, but from the inward enemy of selfishness, complacency, neglect and laziness. Today is your call to action. And so now I ask you. What are you going to do tomorrow, next week, next year to honor the men and women on these memorial walls. What sacrifices are you willing to make for the future of this country?”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

3 GIs Come Home!

Pictured on the left are Gordon Chandler with Larry Jennings and one of the GIs returning to the Carroll County Veterans Memorial Park.

The last of the three returning GIs is being set in place using the heavy equipment moving apparatus belonging to Gordon Chandler.

Several years ago Gordon Chandler loaned the Veterans Memorial Park his three statues and they stayed at the Park until he needed them for a display at another location. Chandler designed and created these soldiers from scrap medal from the Lawler Hosiery Mill. They have traveled from California on the West Coast to Massachusetts on the East Coast and several points in between for various displays. Recently they were located in Marietta, Georgia.

The CCVMP Committee voted to purchase the statues and they will be installed in the Veteran’s Park permanently. They will be “on guard” for viewing at the Memorial Day Program on May 28th, 2011. The program will begin at 10 A.M. and will feature Dr. Keith Berry as speaker. Plaques for Veterans and bricks for everyone are available by calling 770-836-1111 or 770-832-0671.