Veterans Day speaker shocks to underscore message

Oregon Army National Guard Sergeant William Smith delivered a “shocking” Veterans Day message to the crowd gathered at Hood River’s war memorial.

The keynote speaker began his address on Tuesday by “criticizing” President George W. Bush and the military presence in Iraq. He also “blamed” American international policy for the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks on the East Coast. The confused look on the faces of his audience gave way to smiles and finally to applause as the recruiter from The Dalles explained that his remarks mirrored those of anti-war protesters.

“People have stood on this ground, in front of these bricks, in front of these flags, in front of this memorial and said those very words,” he said. “But what they don’t know is that not a single word of protest has ever created freedom and liberty unless it was backed up in the end by the blood, sweat and tears of the American military.”

Smith challenged the audience to show respect every day to the men and women of the Armed Forces who willingly put their lives on the line to protect citizen freedom, liberty, hope, and the pursuit of happiness.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who returned to his hometown to pay tribute to local veterans, later voiced his agreement with Smith’s remarks.

“Our military today is made up of men and women who have volunteered to step forward in the cause of freedom and who are taking great risks not only to make our country safer but to secure freedom and peace for people we may never know as Americans,” said Walden, who recently visited Iraq.

The sacrifices made by families of military volunteers was also recognized at the Nov. 11 ceremony. American Legion Post 22 Auxiliary President Leila Crapper presented eight “Blue Star” banners to military mothers. That sacrifice extended not only to military families but American citizens as well, according to Lynn Guenther, a retired Air Force colonel and former POW. He drew applause when he read the inscription on one of the 40 new memorial bricks.

That slab purchased by a Marine Lance Corporal read, “Sept. 11, Never Forget.”

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