General guest speaker at ceremony

Nancy De Genarro, Daily News Journal, May 25, 2015

Stones River National Cemetery 2015

Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, MTSU’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, left, and Gib Backlund, chief of operations for the National Park Service’s Stones River National Battlefield and Cemetery in Murfreesboro, deliver a wreath during ceremonies at the cemetery on Sunday.

Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Huber was guest speaker at the Memorial Day service held Sunday at Stones River National Cemetery.

“I’m here today to speak on behalf of all our armed forces: past, present and those in the future.  And to pay remembrance and respect to our fallen who have demonstrated the cost of freedom that unfortunately so few comprehend,” said Huber, who recently was named senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives at Middle Tennessee State University.

The ceremony, as with all Memorial Day remembrances, is far from a celebration, he told the crowd of about 200.  But, instead, it is a solemn occasion focused on conveying the immense cost of freedom many Americans “cannot comprehend.”

“Hopefully as the American public views this solemn respectful event they get some sort of exposure as to the emotion and sacrifice, so that they don’t think that it should be simply the date which marks the official beginning of summer or a weekend when you can enjoy commercial sales.  It has so much more of a profound meaning and impact on the men and women who have served,” said Huber, who spent 38 years in the United States Army.

Huber reflected on the many leaders he served under who inspired, trained and led him.  But he also spent time reflecting on the soldiers who served under him.

“One of the most difficult things for me is thinking about the men and women that I’ve served, that I have led in combat, who died doing what I asked them to do,” Huber said, tears forming in the corners of his eyes.  “How humbling that is to have people who allow you to be their leader, that they willingly follow you to their death out of a sense of mutual respect and love that you earn with each other every day, knowing that you’re there for each other and you’re willing to die for each other.”

Huber also recognized the group of Gold Star Wives of America, which has recently formed a Middle Tennessee Chapter that will serve Rutherford and surrounding counties.  Gold Star Wives membership is open to those who are widows and widowers of those who have fallen in armed combat in the United States military branches.  The women were on hand to pay honor to heroes on Memorial Day, but also to raise awareness of the support and camaraderie the group offers families who have experienced the ultimate sacrifice in the loss of a loved one in combat.

Retired Marine Anthony Knox, who serves as commander for VFW Post 4575 in Murfreesboro, was a Vietnam veteran in attendance at Sunday’s event. For years Knox has attended the Memorial Day service at Stones River National Cemetery as a way to pay respect to fallen heroes.

His participation changes each year, depending on where he is needed, he said.  This year he took part in the retiring of colors.  It’s just another way he pays respect and honor to fellow veterans, he said.

“I’m here to honor all veterans,” Knox said.  “But, for me, every day is Veterans Day because that’s what I do.  I try to help veterans get benefits, get recognition for what they’ve done, that’s what I’m all about.”

The 9th Kentucky Infantry Civil War re-enactment group, dressed in period uniforms, presented a three-volley salute as part of the ceremony.  Siegel High School student Abby Strayer played taps, followed by the retirement of colors by local veterans posts.  Benediction by Jim Prim closed out the ceremony.

Through Monday, the public can see thousands of flags that are placed on each of the 6,000 graves interred at Stones River National Cemetery, located across from the Visitors Center at Stones River National Battlefield, 3501 Old Nashville Highway.  Admission is free and open to the public.

Contact Nancy De Gennaro at 615-278-5148 or [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @DNJMama.

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