Posted: Monday, November 11th 2013 at 2:52pm
Veterans Day celebrated in Gainesville
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE – Patriotic music, wreath laying and a 21-gun salute were all a part of the annual Veterans Day tribute Monday morning at Lakewood Baptist Church.
Sponsored by American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7, a nearly full house heard retired U.S. Marine Corp Lt. Colonel Scott Ballard talk about "Opportunity".
"It’s the opportunity to fail; but it’s also the opportunity to succeed," Ballard began. "Opportunity to be a part of something grand, much larger than one’s self."
Ballard recounted his time serving in the Iraqi war when he had the chance to take advantage of an opportunity that changed his life.
"During the summer of 2003 the war in Iraq had been considered ‘Mission Complete’," Ballard began, "but we now know that didn’t hold true."
"By the fall of 2003 (two months later) we were conducting 24-hour operations," Ballard said. He added that he was the guy who decided who was to be re-deployed back into Iraq to complete any unfinished business.
"I was the guy in the room that was locked by three doors making the plan."
Ballard said that before long he had a seminal moment. "I began to gain a different perspective on my role as operational planner. What gave me the right to identify individual Marines for deployment back into a combat zone?"
"I knew it was my job," Ballard answered himself rhetorically. "It had to be done…but the sense of guilt began to overwhelm me."
"Instead of viewing the long list of names just as names, I started to view them as fellow Marines," Ballard said.
Ballard said it was soon after this time that he decided to take advantage of an opportunity to stop just observing history and become one of the people who write history.
"I wanted the opportunity to serve alongside my fellow Marines…I asked to be deployed." He eventually got his request and said that he has never regretted taking advantage of the opportunity that presented itself.
Ballard encouraged everyone – military and otherwise – to do likewise, to take advantage of the opportunities that life presents. Ballard presented the challenge to everyone in the sanctuary to get involved and to serve, somehow, somewhere.
Veterans Day has been the official name bestowed upon the day by the U.S. Congress since 1954. Prior to that time it was known as Armistice Day and honored only the veterans who fought in World War I. The name change happened under President Dwight Eisenhower and now all men and women who have served in any branch of the U.S. military at any time are the honorees.
NOTE: As this author was preparing to leave the auditorium a young man caught my eye and gestured before approaching me to strike up a conversation.
Tenth-grader Louis Ha from Marietta had come with his school, Maranatha Christian Academy, to be a part of the music program for the ceremony, but he said that Lt. Col. Ballard’s message had touched him deeply.
"I was listening to his message," Ha said as if he wanted to be certain that someone in the media knew how he felt. "More of us should make history different, change the world, and make it a better place."
Ha confided that he was now considering the military as part of his future plans.
Apparently Veterans Day celebrations aren’t just for those who have served; stories such as Ballard’s can affect even a tenth-grader.
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