“There’s no greater purpose in life than to serve a cause larger than oneself,” said Sheriff Daniel Jackson, retired U.S. Marine Corps master gunnery sergeant. “That is what every veteran has done. In the defense of America, every veteran signed the dotted line and agreed to give all — up to and including their life to defend our nation and the American way of life. That is why we’re the greatest nation on Earth.”
Jackson was the special guest speaker at Mondays Geary County Veterans Alliance Veterans Day program inside the C.L. Hoover Opera House. The cold temperature and snow didn’t keep Geary County veterans from attending the day to honor each other and those who have come before and after them.
Veterans Day, was originally called Armistice Day in celebration of the end of hostilities of World War I, then called the Great War.
“Armistice Day was created to celebrate the cessation of hostilities in World War I, on 11th hour, on the 11th Day, of the 11th month of 1918,” Jackson said. “In 1954, following World War Two and the Korean War, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day to honor all veterans who risked their lives to defend our nation. Ronald Reagan said, ‘freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.’
“We are literally greatest nation on Earth,” he added. “We are the greatest nation on Earth because of incredible patriots, such as yourself, and those who have answered the call for you, to defend our nation and our way of life.”
While talking about how veterans are willing to sacrifice themselves for their brothers and sisters in arms, Jackson told the story of Cpl. Daniel Gire.
Jackson described Gire as a “joker” who was always in trouble while on the installation but was a “great field marine.”
In February 2007, Gire was a member of a four marine squad attached to an Army unit in Ramadi, Iraq.
“While conducting a tactical withdraw, Cpl. Gire’s team were hit with RPG and machine gun fire,” Jackson said. “All members of his team were wounded to include Cpl. Gire who was knocked to the ground from the blast of the RPG. Cpl. Gire rose from the ground and under continued enemy fire, drag a semi-conscious team captain to a nearby house. The team was pinned down under enemies fire and the quick reaction force was deployed to rescue them had turned the wrong direction, and we’re moving away from their position.
“Unable to wield his squad automatic weapon due to the wounds on his right arm, Cpl. Gire wedged an M4 carbine into his non-firing hand,” Jackson added. “Cpl. Gire charged of the house under direct enemy fire, firing as he ran until catching up with Bradley Fighting Vehicles that had past their position. Cpl. Gire led the Bradleys back to his teams location where seriously wounded teammates were rescued. When the Bradley’s arrived at the field hospital, Cpl. Gire still looked after his teammates by helping unload them from the Bradley. Cpl. Gire had no concern for his own wounds; all he was worried about was his teammates. Short time later, Cpl. Gire’s wounds were assessed and he was advised that he would have to be back to Germany for further treatment. Cpl. Gire looked at me and said, ‘Gunny, I’m not going to Germany. I’m staying here.’”
Jackson added that Cpl. Gire returned to the states and finished his military career after being awarded the Silver Star for his actions.
Toward the end of the his speech, Jackson talked about the affects of PTSD and how numerous veterans are succumbing to the ordeal by taking their own lives.
“I think we would be remiss to not also use Veterans Day to reinvigorate our commitment to each other and to those who still fight their inner demons,” Jackson said. “Twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide — one a day is too many. Thousands of veterans are homeless. Countless numbers of veterans have lost her families, their homes, their jobs, all because of their unhealed wounds of the mind and soul. In combat we would never think of leaving one of our brothers or sisters behind. As veterans, we need to have the same attitude and reach out to those that need our help. And if we are the one who needs help, we need to have the courage to seek out that help.”
Jim Sands, retired Army sergeant major, who was the emcee for the program also implied there are things that veterans, family members, community members and more can do for the veterans of the nation.
Sands encouraged people to ask veterans about their service.
“They do not mind,” he said. “They want to tell you about their 3 years, their 2 years, their 35 years, their 14 months. They want to tell you about what they did.”
Sands also said to visit the Veterans Administration Hospitals.
“If you have ever been to the hospital, you know that nobody comes to visit you when you’re there unless it’s family or somebody that really cares a lot about you — and your close,” he said. “If you’re two hours away, in Kansas City at the KU Med Center, and you see people show up, you know they care.”
It is the simple acts of listening and showing that people care that can deter the 22 soldiers a day that kill themselves, Sands said.
The program closed with the JCHS JROTC Color Guard retiring the Colors and with a benediction from minister Lee Sarvis, Second Missionary Baptist Church.