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VFW POST 2223 (Savanna, IL) MEMORIAL DAY SPEECH - 2016


Welcome to today's ceremony and thank you for attending. My name is MSG William Hanna (Retired), I served over 24 years in the US Army eventually retiring in August of 2013. During my service I was deployed on three separate occasions and understand the necessary sacrifices that need to be made to protect our way of life. I am also the S uperintendent of the Carroll County Veterans Assistance Commission. Serving our Veterans in Carroll County with financial assistance when needed and procuring the VA benefits our Veterans richly deserve.

I'm honored to be speaking with you today and give humble reverence to the absent comrades that have sacrificed all to protect this country and its values. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage are the values these men and women have demonstrated in their service to this great Nation, ultimately paying the greatest sacrifice of all, their lives.

While today is definitely an emotional day for those that have lost loved ones in sacrifice to this country. Some may ask, was it worth it. I once asked the same question of my Sargent just after my first combat operation. I asked was it worth the cost of losing our fellow comrades. His response was "The better question is how can we make it worth it". I of course thought he was referring to the overall goal of winning battles. However, he went on to explain that our comrades had dedicated themselves to the values that guide this country. The best way to serve them is to live our lives in accordance with those values and honor their memory. I strongly encourage those that have sacrificed their loved ones for this countries values. To live their lives in a way that honors those values the fallen have paid the ultimate sacrifice for and make it worth it.

An Army Pilot by the name of Tony Bass once said to me that "Sacrifice is a way of life in service to this country but he wouldn't trade it for anything else.". His meaning was clear, doing the right thing for the greater good isn't always easy and demands one's personal courage to make tough choices for the greater good. However, regardless of the personal cost there is nothing greater then service to a noble cause.

Tony Bass demonstrated the meaning of sacrifice during an operation where he flew a Medical Blackhawk while in IRAQ. His crew received a mission to provide MEDEVAC support for a Platoon of Marines who had suffered serious casualties. They were pinned down in an abandon enemy structure, surrounded, and under heavy fire from enemy combatants. The area was not secured as originally transmitted and the Platoon was unable to secure a landing zone for the MEDEVAC Chopper. Bass had to make a decision on whether to abort the mission until the area was secured or attempt to land and risk his crew and his own life. His usual air support from two attack Helicopters was diverted to another mission, because they originally believed the area was secure for MEDEVAC. After contacting his Base of Operations and requesting other attack Helicopters for support. He was told that they would be 30 minutes out, at least. The Platoon repeatedly expressed the need to evacuate their casualties before their lives were lost. Bass made the decision to attempt a landing on the abandon structure to MEDEVAC the casualties out immediately. During his approach under heavy fire, his chopper was hit and his Co-pilot was killed and he was injured. Injured and still under heavy fire Bass and his remaining crew were able to load the most critical casualties and take-off from the structure. While still under heavy fire, the Helicopter was hit by handheld surface to air missile. Causing further injury to himself and his crew. He was still able make an emergency landing far enough away from the hot zone to wait for assistance from the inbound support Helicopters. Unfortunately, Bass's injuries were to severe and the on-board medic was unable to stabilize his condition. He eventually died along with the Crew Chief before support could arrive. The actions of Tony Bass and his Crew demonstrated the true meaning of sacrifice in the service to others. When I had the honor of speaking with Tony Bass's Family. His father said to me "Tony's death is a great loss to this family, but Tony was doing what he loved and serving his Country with honor. I know my son wouldn't have traded that privilege for anything else".

Now I'd like to ask the family member of any service member to stand. We know you have lived through difficult times and often taken the heavy load to keep the home fires burning. Your sacrifice is not forgotten. Thank you for what you've done.

We are joined around the world today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication, and to say thank you for their sacrifices. Thinking of the heroes who join us in this group today and those who are here only in spirit, a person can't help but feel awed by the enormity of what we encounter. We stand in the midst of patriots and the family and friends of those who have nobly served. The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities. They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity, all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one's self. Many of them didn't ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. Many didn't even volunteer. They didn't go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the Call-To-Arms because they wanted to protect a nation which has given them, us, so much.

The VFW / American Legion will always be proud of the selfless service of the more than one million men and women who have made the Supreme Sacrifice for the United States since our nation's founding.

We should always insist that America remain the land of the free. A land where patriotism trumps politics, where the American Flag is displayed proudly and frequently and where military veterans are society's true celebrities. We must NEVER forget the families of our fallen. Long after the battlefield guns have been silenced and the bombs stop exploding, the children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent. Spouses will be without their partners. Parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters that died way too early.

We need to be there for them, not just as members of The VFW / American Legion family - but as American citizens. Nobody can replace these fallen heroes - especially in the eyes of their families - but we can offer shoulders to cry on, and assurances that their loved one's sacrifice will not be forgotten.

While there is nothing unpatriotic about a gathering with friends, a trip to the beach or a barbecue during this holiday period, please remember to encourage others today to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day. Let us remember that tyrannical regimes have been toppled and genocides stopped because Americans sacrificed life and limb. Let us remember that terrorist plots were foiled and killers brought to justice because Americans were willing to pay a high price. Let us remember that without a U.S. military, the world would be a far more oppressive and darker place. Let us remember that freedom never had a greater friend than the American soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman.

Thank you for being here and allowing me to honor our nation's finest. God Bless America, God Bless those that have lost love ones and God Bless the Fallen Heroes, I salute you.



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