Members of the Cherokee High School and Volunteer High School Navy Junior ROTC carry the colors during the Veterans Day ceremony in Rogersville on Sunday. Photo by Jeff Bobo.
ROGERSVILLE — The keynote speaker for Rogersville’s Veterans Day observance told the crowd that “liberals” should serve in the military instead of “hiding behind protests and occupying the streets.”
“Why not occupy the military instead of those streets,” said Sgt. 1st Class Roy Spears who is a Desert Storm veteran and currently serves as a National Guard recruiter.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe then followed up on Spears’ comments by suggesting that only military veterans are fit to serve in Congress.
“Only 17 percent of the U.S. Congress have ever put the uniform on,” Roe told the Rogersville crowd. “Eighty-three percent of the people who vote for our benefits never saddled up, put the uniform on, and served this country. I think that’s shameful, and I think we need to look during the next election to find out if a person has served or not.”
Sunday’s Veterans Day ceremony in front of the Hawkins County Courthouse in Rogersville began with the ringing of the bell by Cub Scout Troop 143, followed by the Lord’s Prayer which was led by VFW Post 9543 Chaplain Jerry Alvis.
Members of the Cherokee and Volunteer High School Navy JROTC raised the colors while Cherokee student Leah Helton sang the National Anthem.
Wayne Burleson, VFW Post 9543 commander, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
During his presentation, Spears said it is an honor for him to salute and praise veterans who came before him.
“Since the creation of this great nation, brave men and women have stepped forth and picked up their rifle and defended it,” Spears said. “They made sacrifices to serve their country, left families at home, and sometimes fought together as a family. ... Without these sacrifices so many years ago we wouldn’t have the great nation we so dearly love today.”
Spears also reminded those in attendance not to forget soldiers missing in action, those who have been wounded and are in need of health care at home, and those who return home in need of support because they carry wounds that can’t be seen by the naked eye.
He added, “Less than 1 percent of the American population ever served this great nation. ... Let the liberals step forth and pay their fair share and serve instead of hiding behind protests occupying street. Why not occupy the military instead of those streets. As a veteran stand proud and say you are the 1 percent.”
Speaking as a veteran, Roe said it’s not unusual for veterans to ask themselves if their service made a difference. He pointed to a recent visit to South Korea as an example. Roe served there 40 years ago as the country was still recovering from the Korean War, had a military dictator and economic output similar to that of Afghanistan’s current economy.
Today South Korea has free elections, an economy ranked in the top 10 in the world, 50 million free residents, and more people are converting to Christianity than are being born in South Korea.
Roe said he observed several Korean War veterans in the Rogersville crowd.
“That has happened because of the veterans, and they are free because of what you did,” Roe said.
The ceremony ended with the laying of wreaths on the War Memorial in front of the courthouse, followed by a 21 gun salute.