Graves Delivers Touching Patriotic Speech at Ceremony
With hundreds of school kids, parents, teachers, business owners and employees, government officials, Gold Star Mothers, military veterans, and others crowded onto the wide street and sidewalks in front of the Monroe County TN Courthouse, Veterans Day received a memorable observance on Friday, two days before the yearly November 11 remembrance.
From opening remarks by Veteran Service Officer Chuck Mullins to the singing of the National Anthem by Jo Stakley to a 21-Gun Salute and TAPS by the Veteran of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans, the event brought downtown Madisonville to a solemn standstill. Mayor Tim Yates offered a ceremonial prayer, Naval Veteran Ken Miller provided recognition of fallen soldiers and the ones missing in action. Words came from Gold Star Mothers, and the Madisonville second graders sang from the courthouse steps.
However, it was Army National Guard Staff Sergeant and Monroe County Sheriff ’s Chief Deputy Bryan Graves who lifted the event beyond its unwavering patriotism into a rare spiritual elegance, delivering a speech that centered on “duty, honor, and country.”
“I feel it is my duty to be a part of the Army and I am drawn, even compelled, to do my part to protect my country against those who would cowardly attack women, children, and civilians that mean the attackers no harm whatsoever,” he said.
Graves called honor “in a word, integrity,” but said there weren’t a lot of definitions for “country.” A geographical region, yes, he said, but then he provided his own definition of country. And here are his exact words as he recited from his written script.
“MY COUNTRY…is the Red, White and Blue, it is where I grew up, rode my bike, played in the woods, it is where I hauled hay, watched workers commute, it is where I watched farmers and business people make a living. It is the courthouses, the schools, and the Main Streets. It is honoring the Veterans that make freedom possible. It is the trees and the mountains, the rivers we swim and fish in. It is the smell of a fresh cut field, and of Sunday dinner at Mom’s. It is those people that we see every day, fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, brothers and sisters of those that have stood up, received the call of duty and answered, sometimes with their lives.
It is the remembrance of those that died on 9-11 THAT…is the SPIRIT that I call my country…
There is a song called the “Warrior” song. It was developed by a group of people called the warrior project, and although the entire song is breathtaking to me, one line of the song stands out.
That line is “STAND NEXT TO ME AND YOU’LL NEVER STAND ALONE!”
Bear with me as this is very near and dear to my heart and I will try to get through it.
I look out today and see the faces of friends, brothers, and sisters, although some of you may have never met me before.
But, I know at one point in your life you have offered your country everything you had to offer, not just at that moment, but you offered everything you may have ever had or will have. You offered to give up every kiss, every hug, every “I love you from a child,” a daughter’s wedding, the first day of school, the first bicycle ride. You offered to give up teaching your children how to drive a car, bouncing your grandchildren on your knee, and holding your spouse’s hand. You offered to give up watching your children grow up and your parents grow old. You offered to give up every opportunity you may have had to hold and comfort a child of yours in need or to watch your sons grow up into the men you wanted them to be. You offered this not just from you, but also from your family or your family yet to be. They stood by you and said, “We also stand, so that our warrior may go and hold the line for what we believe in.”
You, the veteran, have kneeled before your country and said, “Take everything and every moment my family and I have, or may ever have, if you need it!!!, including my life!”
And some of our warriors right here in Monroe County have paid that so dear a price, and their families continue to pay it every day! I am humbled by you! Please draw some comfort from the fact that the line still holds!
So, with people like that standing right here in front of me on this day…. If I may……like the song said with a little twist:
IF YOU STAND NEXT TO THESE VETERANS, YOU’LL NEVER STAND ALONE!!!
God bless the USA. Thank you.”