Area veterans received a heartfelt message from one of their own during the annual Veterans Day Observance at the Averitt Center.
In praising his fellow vets, retired U.S. Army Maj. Sean McLaughlin said in his keynote address Thursday that their nation needs their sense of service and honor more than ever today.
“Aren't your best efforts needed now? The call to duty is just as real now ... Be the example you want others to emulate.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 Observance to be streamed online with no audience in the Emma Kelly Theater, about 100 people gathered in person at the Averitt Center to honor veterans of all military branches.
Following a half-hour of patriotic songs from Jack Kindig and the Music Messengers, the program got underway at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month with the posting of the flag by the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office Color Guard.
Prior to McLaughlin’s address, Bob Marsh, a Navy veteran and adjutant for American Legion Post 90, read “The American’s Creed.”
The Creed is a patriotic message written by William Tyler Page in 1917, who was clerk for the House of Representatives at the time. A short statement, it concludes with:
“I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.”
Post 90 Commander Lonnie Ellis then introduced McLaughlin, who is a decorated veteran of the Iraq War who now serves in a civilian role as chief of plans and training for Winn Army Hospital at Fort Stewart.
“Maj. McLaughlin started as an enlisted private,” Ellis said. “I think that gave him a real insight into the lives of everyday soldiers and that served him well.”
McLaughlin began his address with a look at how much respect the New Testament pays to the soldier. He related three stories about how actions of soldiers earned the respect and admiration of peoples of differing faiths, disciples and Jesus himself.
McLaughlin paraphrased some thoughts from Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
"’You (the military) are one of the last bastions of order and discipline in the United States. Have you ever noticed that in the decay of civilizations ... in 19 out of 22 recorded civilizations that decayed from within from the beginning of history ... that the last thing to ever decay was the military. They stood when everything else fell.’"
During his service, McLaughlin was deployed to Iraq three times. As a tank platoon leader, he participated in the invasion in 2003, arriving in Baghdad “the day after the statue fell” and in the Battle of Karbala in 2004.
He commanded a troop in the 5-7 Cavalry and later commanded the 1st Battalion of the 306th Infantry Regiment.
In his praise of veterans, McLaughlin also offered a challenge to vets, as well.
“On this Veterans' Day, I ask that you all look in the mirror when you get home,” he said. “I ask that you see the servant and soldier within, to see the person who can answer the reoccurring question of what next? What next should I do? The answer is to help your fellow man, serve your community without thought for reward, but because it's the right thing to do … The challenge is to not fall victim to the thought that ‘My job is done. It's someone else's turn.’"
Concluding, McLaughlin made a simple request: “I leave you with the words of Marcus Aurelius, ‘Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.’"
And then the Veterans Day Observance in the Averitt Center ended as it always has – with the entire crowd singing “God Bless America.”