Annual Bipartisan Tribute Honoring Veterans In Congress Gives Recognition To World War II D-Day Heroes
The Eighth Annual Tribute to Veterans and Those Who Serve in Congress featured a powerful line up, including Major Garrett, CBS' Senior Washington Correspondent, General Charles "Chuck" Wald, USAF-Retired (a four star), U.S. Congressman Peter King (NY), and a spectacular performance by world-renowned tenor Anthony Kearns.
Held between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July holiday, the annual bipartisan event honors those who serve or have served their country in military uniform and as elected leaders. This year's tribute took place on June 24, 2019 in Washington, D.C.
Rep. King, a member and former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, led a recognition of Congressional members' service and military contributions. "All of these leaders appreciate that serving in the military is a life defining moment. We can never ever pay enough tribute to the men and women of the armed services," he said.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (TX), a retired Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan, commented on the importance of having veterans in Congress: "They help bring a real-world perspective to the pertinent threats to our country that have been lost in the current polarization among politicians."
Rep. Jim Baird (IN), who served as Second Lieutenant for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, said: "Supporting veterans transcends political divides. This tribute highlights the commonalities between all of us who have served in the U.S. military - and those who work to support the fundamental freedoms of all Americans as elected officials."
Three U.S. military veterans who took part in World War II's "Operation Overlord," were also recognized, in light of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, including:
· Guy Whidden, a paratrooper in HQ Company, member of the 101st Airborne Division, and Purple Heart recipient;
· Wilbur Williams, who served on the USS Jeffers and assisted in the invasions of Normandy, Sicily, Southern France, and Okinawa; and
· Don McKee, who was part of the 29th Infantry Division, 175th Regiment, D-Day Medic, and recipient of two Purple Hearts and a bronze star.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (TN), Ranking Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee who served in the Army Medical Corps., said, "It was an honor to meet these veterans and hear their heroic stories of service and sacrifice -- and to reflect on how much they have contributed to our society."
U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (TX), retired Captain in the U.S. Air Force, agreed: "These men and their inspiring stories reminded me why I joined the military - and why I serve in the U.S. Congress: to protect the liberties our veterans have sacrificed so much to secure."
Other members of Congress confirmed to attend were: Mike Bost (IL), Jack Bergman (MI), Dan Crenshaw (TX), Warren Davidson (OH), Mark Green (TN), Barry Loudermilk (GA), Scott Perry (PA), Greg Steube (FL), and Don Young (AK). A last-minute House vote delayed the arrival of these honored guests.
The program began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Army Color Guard, the Pledge of Allegiance led by WWII-era Veterans, and Will Hubbard, a Marines Reservist and chief of staff of Student Veterans of America, and a powerful rendition of the National Anthem by Mr. Kearns. Mark Strand, director of the Congressional Institute, welcomed the audience and U.S. House Chaplain Patrick Conroy gave the invocation.
Mr. Garrett, the evening's Master of Ceremonies, remarked: "Those of us who haven't been in combat can't really understand all that is a part of that experience. Yet, in that unknowing, we dig deeper for a sense of appreciation. That's why events like this exist."
General Chuck Wald, USAF (Ret.), spoke of the importance of unity among Americans: "Most people around the world envy the freedom we live in, the type of life we have, the opportunities we have. It's good to have events like this to remind us of how lucky we are."
"I know we have some Congress members that were in the military and now they serve again. There's nothing more honorable than serving your country," Wald said, noting that in WWII about 11% served in combat and now less than half of one percent serve.
The program also featured remarks by Rick Yount, founder and executive director of Warrior Canine Connection, who spoke about the power of service animals to improve the mental and physical well-being of veterans.
Mr. Yount also made an exciting announcement: a litter of WCC puppies born on June 24, 2019 will be named "Operation Overlord" in light of the D-Day anniversary. Puppies in the litter will be named after the WWII heroes in attendance and grow up to be highly-trained service dogs. "We are not forgetting the sacrifices that these brave American heroes have made, and the dogs are really a living memorial to their selfless service," he explained.
Anthony Kearns sang a sensational set list including "Amazing Grace," which he dedicated to all those who have fallen in battle, as well as "How Great Thou Art," "Danny Boy," and "Shenandoah." One of the evening's highlights was Mr. Kearns' rousing "God Bless America," for which he asked all those in attendance to join him.
The program closed with a toast led by Kearns, Garrett, King, and Colonel James Tierney of the "Fighting 69th"-one of the most storied fighting units in U.S. history. Guests were invited to enjoy the hospitality including fine bourbons by Beam Suntory, California wines from Wine Institute, beer courtesy of NBWA-- and to try the famous "Fighting 69th" Regimental cocktail.
Said Rep. King, a veteran of the 69th Regiment (NY): "This year's highlight was honoring the D-Day veterans. I'm glad we have events like this to honor the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who put their lives on the line to protect our nation. I look forward to participating again next year."
General Wald summed it up: "My two favorite things in the world are World War II veterans and dogs. You've made my day."
The event was organized by Kirsten Fedewa & Associates, L.L.C.