Thank you for giving me the privilege of talking to you today and expressing some of my personal experiences and my gratitude. First of all I have to get my disclaimer out of the way. It goes like this: "Everything I say is either my opinion or a lie, so if you want the truth you have to go see the Chaplain."
I'm Master Sergeant Fred Waymire. I am an Army Reservist currently assigned to the 724th Military Police Battalion. As a civilian I am a mechanic for a local Ford dealership.
About five months ago I returned from a year-long deployment in Baghdad, Iraq. At Camp Cropper I was the Theater Internment Facility Noncommissioned Officer in Charge. At any given time we had over 4,000 detainees in our facility. We had hundreds of soldiers performing various duties, most of which consisted of guarding the detainees. The soldiers that made up the guard force were from the Army Reserve, National Guard, and the Regular Army. We had Air Force, Navy and Marine service members who performed functions in the facility as well.
For most of these service men and women, detainee operations was not their primary military job, but it was the job they were called to do and they all did it exceptionally well. They were soldiers first and performed whatever mission or task they were assigned with great commitment and pride. We all worked together with the common goal of successfully maintaining good order and discipline, while performing the mission of care, custody, and control, with dignity and respect.
We treated the detainees like human beings would want to be treated, which in turn earned us their respect. The detainees were offered voluntary educational classes such as Arabic, English, and, Mathematics, and they had the opportunity to volunteer for work programs where they could learn various skills, while earning money to help to support their family while they were in our facility. Our soldiers streamlined the visitation process from three months to three weeks. These are just a few of the outstanding achievements of our soldiers. I could easily go on for a long time bragging about how professional, and proficient our soldiers are.
There are three reasons that I am telling you about these things today. One, quite frankly, is to brag about the soldiers that are currently serving in the armed forces. The second is to let you know that there are a lot of great things going on in Iraq that are never heard or talked about. The third is so that those of you who have served before them, can be proud of them.
For me the approval of a veteran means a lot. Veterans are one of the primary measuring sticks that we, or at least I, consider when making decisions or taking action. You have set the standard that we strive to maintain. It is your prior service that we learn from, it is your legacy that we continue, and it is your honor that we try to live up to.
Today is a special day for me because it is a day that honors those who have served before me, and with me, those who have answered when their nation called upon them to serve a cause greater than themselves. A cause that that is fought for every day. A cause not just for our nation, but literally for the entire world. For us it is to live in the greatest country in the world and exercise our individual rights as citizens, while being part of a larger democratic nation that unites us all. It is the reason that so many other nations want to be free like us. It is the reason that so many flock to our borders in hopes of obtaining the American Dream, to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. And it is the reason that some hate us and try to destroy us.
Every day in local communities, police officers, fire firefighters, and public officials protect and serve us. But when situations arise that demand action on a larger scale the Armed Services are called upon to serve.
Our country was founded by those individuals that took up arms and fought for a better way of life. Veterans are the base that our country was built on, and it is their blood and sacrifice that won us our independence so long ago, and protects us still today. Every day that we can wake up and breathe in free air, we owe thanks to God and our Veterans, and to those who supported them while serving. It is our duty and responsibility - my duty and responsibility - to honor and preserve that service.
Before I left for Iraq I went to Kansas to see my family. While I was there we had a big family dinner where all sides came to the same restaurant at one time. Everyone, in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles. You know, the sides of the family that don't even get together at Christmas. During our dinner my son (SPC Brandon Waymire, who was about to deploy to Afghanistan) and I were summoned outside by the owner of the restaurant. When we went outside with our whole family in tow, I was amazed to see about a hundred people gathered. These were the Patriot Guard Riders and their families, They had come to present my son and I each with a flag and a coin.
The leader of the Guards was a Vietnam veteran whose call sign was Dark Horse. He explained to me that the Patriot Guard Riders of Kansas had originally undertaken the mission of running interference for funeral processions of fallen soldiers. This was necessary because some other, not-so-patriotic groups had decided to protest at those funerals. Veterans like Dark Horse, the rest of the Patriot Guard Riders, and veterans like yourselves; although your time in the service is completed, still serve your country in many ways.
Dark Horse told me that since legislation had been passed mandating a minimum standoff distance from the funeral processions, they still escort funeral processions, but rarely had to run any interference for them. The Patriot Guard Riders now do send offs and welcome back missions. It is their goal to make sure no soldier returns home without being welcomed, and knowing that their service was appreciated by their country. Dark Horse had four or five purple hearts for his three tours in Vietnam. Almost all of the other riders had purple hearts, silver stars, bronze stars, medals with valor devices, all with overseas combat service.
I explained to them that I felt deeply touched that they would take their time to see my son and me off. One of the Guard members that evening had been driven by his wife and two sons. He could not ride his bike because earlier that day he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. I held them in such high regard that I honestly felt that I did not deserve to be standing in the same parking lot with them.
I was brought back to earth when they told me that after they were done here they were all going to go on another ride about thirty minutes away to be with the family of a solider who had been killed in action. They were going to show their support and offer their condolences when the Chaplin came to the family's home.
Veterans act as a special compass to keep this country on the right path. They stand up for what is right. They did back then and they still do today. Organizations like Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, The Patriot Guard, and so many others, ensure that the past is remembered and the future is protected.
We get wisdom, experience and pride from our veterans. Veterans have set the foundation that is continually being built on throughout the generations. We have learned from the past and now do many things differently. Medical and scientific advances have been made by and for our veterans. Technological developments have saved thousands of lives by doing things with more precision, less collateral damage and loss of life. Veterans have influenced our tactics, technology, policies, and traditions. Our veterans form a Brother- and Sister-hood that you can find anywhere you go in this nation, a bond that lasts a lifetime.
We will never forget our fallen soldiers, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We will never forget the Prisoners of War or those Missing in Action. There are days when we specifically pay tribute to those as well as those currently serving in our Armed Forces. Their service is undeniably a monumental piece of our history and our future.
But Veterans - today is YOUR day! Because, thanks to you, every other day is all of ours.
Thank you for your sacrifice; thank you for your service; and thank you for our freedom!
God bless you...God bless the USA!