State Rep. Kevin Brooks delivered an inspiring talk and brought well-wishes from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to Thursday morning's Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance ceremony at the Cleveland Elks Lodge.Not …
State Rep. Kevin Brooks delivered an inspiring talk and brought well-wishes from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to Thursday morning's Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance ceremony at the Cleveland Elks Lodge.
Not only did the two state officials wish the rare local program well, but they extended a heart-felt tribute to Cleveland's George Allen, thought to be the only living Pearl Harbor survivor in Southeast Tennessee.
Allen's daughter, Janet Allen, president of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 81, was emotional as she witnessed the tributes to her father, who remains spry at 95 years of age.
The local chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution now sponsors the annual Pearl Harbor Day program, and former SAR President Randall Higgins served as emcee.
Higgins pointed out the local ceremony is one of a very few across the nation connected with the Pearl Harbor anniversary, outside of Hawaii.
A major reason for the decline of such ceremonies is the dwindling number of World War II veterans, especially Pearl Harbor survivors.
Brooks opened with the fact he is not only a state representative, but "a fellow compatriot of the Sons of the American Revolution, a proud member of the Civil Air Patrol, a proud husband, father of two children, a proud neighbor, and a friend to all of you (veterans) here today."
Brooks was introduced as a friend to veterans in Nashville, and a participant in considerable legislation assisting and regarding Bradley County's veterans. He has been a big backer of the yet-to-be-built Bradley County Veterans Home.
"Today, we pause to remember the thousands of enlisted men and many others who lost their lives on this fateful day, 76 years ago," said Brooks.
"Sadly, many young American do not remember the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941 ... but every living American knows the feeling of loss we felt when we were again suddenly and deliberately attacked on Sept. 11, 2001," the state representative added.
"The feeling of loss, or remorse and fear, are all very real emotions," he said. "They are just as real as the feelings of patriotism, and of God and of country. Today, we pause to honor those who gave their lives for our country some 76 years ago."
Brooks also paid tribute to those who are serving in the military today.
"Thousands of men and women stand ready and willing to lay down their lives for all Americans, to defend the freedom we so easily take for granted."
He said two of his nephews are among those who are currently serving our country in the military, Devin Sanders of the U.S. Marines, and David Sanders of the U.S. Army.
"On this day, and every day, we should stop and thank a veteran," Brooks added. "We should thank them for the freedoms we enjoy. Our freedom, our democracy, and our very way of life is truly fragile, and is always vigilantly defended by our military."
"As I stand here this morning and look across this room filled with The Greatest Generation, I am filled with awe, and respect, but also filled with fear," Brooks continued.
"I stand here in fear that one day these great men, and women, the heroes of our past, will be forgotten. I fear their sacrifices will be in vain," Brooks said.
"I fear that our children, and our children's children, may one day forget the ultimate sacrifices that were given for our freedom — freedom which is never free," Brooks added. "Let us never forget what the thousands of brave men and women sacrificed to give us Pearl Harbor Day, and all the way to this Day."
"Bring your children, tell your children, and remind your children of the sacrifices that are represented here today," he said.
He closed his talk by urging those in attendance to teach their children, and to train them well. He added the words of a speech by former President Ronald Reagan:
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States, where men were free."
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis attended Thursday's program, with Rowland providing the invocation and benediction.
The Bradley Central High School Junior ROTC posted the colors, with several students asking to meet Pearl Harbor survivor Allen. The Bradley County Funeral Honor Guard provided a 21-gun salute outside the Elks Lodge at the end of the program.
SAR Commander John Clines placed the ceremonial wreath at the start of the program, while Bradley County Veterans Affairs Office Joe Davis informed those in attendance of a project to honor for POW Bill Norwood with a monument at downtown Cleveland's 1st Street Square.
Davis also informed the veterans that Norwood, instrumental in founding the Pearl Harbor Day program, is in poor health and is currently hospitalized.
One of the highlights of the ceremony, in addition to Brooks' speech, was when Allen conducted a candle-lighting ceremony in remembrance of all those who were killed or wounded at Pearl Harbor. He was assisted by his daughter.
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