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Enquirer photo/Clif Knight Marine veteran Jim Quakenbush plays taps at the Purple Heart Memorial Service in Hartselle Saturday.

Purple Heart ceremony rekindles patriotic spirit

Old-fashioned American patriotism was demonstrated in Hartselle Saturday as an estimated 200 people assembled in John Sparkman Park to remember and honor the 156 Purple Heart recipients whose names are inscribed on monuments in the Finis J. Self Chapter 2212 Military Order of the Purple Heart Memorial.

Guest speaker Brig. Gen. Robert Stewart, who earned two Purple Heart medals while serving in combat missions in the Vietnam War and went on to log two shuttle missions, held the audience spellbound with a 15-minute talk on the cost of preserving individual liberty.

Enquirer photo/Clif Knight
Robert Turner rings a bell in honor of Purple Heart recipients as their names are recited.

“The blessing of individual liberty is a fragile thing,” said Stewart. “It is a gift from God, but it does require periodic payments in blood. This country is the last guardian of that concept. 

“A voice from the past reminds us all of what we are letting slip from our grasp. When it is finally gone, it will no longer be a viable concept on the face of this planet,” Stewart added. “I believe if, maybe when, we let it go, it is gone forever.”

Since the founding of this nation, Stewart said, more than 651,000 veterans have died in combat defending the nation, according to the latest VA statistics. 

“An additional 308,000 died as a result of non-combat but war-related injuries, and 1,430,000 suffered non-mortal wounds,” he added. “Some 42,000,000 have served in uniform since the Revolutionary War. Today we have an estimated 16,000,000 living veterans.”

Enquirer photo/Clif Knight

In summary, Stewart said, “This ceremony today, to honor those who have suffered the wounds of war, will be an empty remembrance if we fail to re-embrace fundamental national vales and turn from the disastrous track we are pursuing which loudly screams for our ‘rights’ and ‘entitlements’ without the slightest whisper of ‘responsibility.’ We soldiers sum it up in three words: duty, honor, country. 

“Every veteran has lived it, and every citizen must embrace these values if we are to survive as a nation.” 

Chapter commander Clifford Gissell welcomed guests and served as program emcee. The Decatur High School ROTC color guard posted colors, and Jennifer Eddleman sang the National Anthem. 

George Mills, World War II veteran and prisoner of war, presented the POW/MIA table with the assistance of Woody Carpenter.

The name of each Purple Heart recipient was read, followed by the ringing of a bell. Readers were State Sen. Arthur Orr, Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long, Hartselle Mayor Randy Garrison and Cullman County Commissioner Kerry Watson. 

Enell Baker sang her song, “Spirit of America,” and Jim Quakenbush played taps.