The city of Brooksville held its second annual Veterans Day Celebration on Nov. 11 with an emotional tribute to Veterans. Honored speakers included Harry Washington Jr. – U.S. Army Retired, Robert I Ford- Chief Warrant Officer 4 U.S. Army Retired, John Schrubby- Master Sergeant- U.S. Army, Bill Pope- U.S. Army Retired, and Brian Hawkins- U.S. Navy.
Before the speakers delivered their speeches, Mrs. Evelyn Washington, wife of Harry Washington, Jr., sang a beautiful rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Glory Hallelujah.
Mr. Harry Washington was the first speaker of the morning. He recounted a recent trip to the flea market. He said, “You’d be surprised by the number of people telling me, thank you for your service. When you got your uniform on, it means something,” he told the veterans in the audience.
Robert Ford placed caution on the use of the word hero, because he feels it is overused and if you use it for lesser reasons, it isn’t as meaningful to the people who actually deserve the title.
He continued to describe the story of his brother’s military service during Vietnam, his heroism, and that of his best friend who saved his brother’s life on multiple occasions.
Ford’s brother Charles Ford received “two silver stars, a couple of purple hearts and a long list of other combat citations.” Sadly, he was killed in a helicopter crash in 1969 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
After going to Charlie’s graveside and noticing the two silver stars engraved on the headstone, Robert and his older brother wished to discover more about Charlie’s military service. After requesting military records, they discovered his brother was a member of a special forces unit that was a precursor to today’s Delta force. Further inquiries in regards to people who may have served with Charlie, led them to a resident of Brooksville, Fla., Maj. Ret. Edwin Livingston.
Livingston told Robert that Charlie was his best friend in Vietnam. Livingston led a ranger company that would be called in when military actions were under extreme threat.
Linvingston saved Ford’s life on multiple occasions in Vietnam, once when approximately 1500 hostile North Vietnamese soldiers were closing in on Charlie’s defensive position.
“I want to thank the mayor, the city of Brooksville and the Hernando County community, allowing me this opportunity to speak about Ed Livingston today, a local hero.”
To Edwin Livingston in his absence, Robert Ford said, “On behalf of my family, the Ford family, I want to thank you for your service.”
Bill Pope reflected on how veterans suffer after returning home from war. He entered the military in 1981 at 17 years old.
“A lot of time, you hear about veterans, but you don’t know what we had to go through as in Vietnam in the jungle; over in Iraq at night when it was cold… You don’t know how it can affect the veterans mentally.”
“The veterans that went out and did these things, keep your arms open to them,” he urged.
He described the nightmares, anxieties and physical ailments that veterans suffer with due to the hardships of war.
“This is hard for me to talk about this stuff,” he said because it brings him back to when he had to tell his wife, “Honey, I don’t think I’m coming home,” while serving in the Middle East.
“At that moment, I knew I was gonna die. I looked to my left and I saw other soldiers. They were depending on me. So I had to tuck everything in and put on a good front.”
“Deep down inside us there was perseverance, integrity, loyalty. The main goal was to preserve the safety of the country that we believe in, no matter if it costs us our lives, no matter if it costs us limbs, no matter if it costs us our eyesight. We sacrifice our families in order to save others.”
Brian Hawkins joined the Navy in January 2000. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, he was serving on the USS John F. Kennedy, stationed in Florida and about to head to the Caribbean on a short deployment.
On receiving word of the terrorist attacks, the ship was rerouted north and proceeded along the east coast. During the 45 day time period, there was very little communication about what was going on. Sailors and aircraft from the ship were utilized to support recovery efforts at Ground Zero. It wasn’t until they returned that it was confirmed that we were in a time of war. Hawkins expected the country to be in a state of chaos and turmoil, but upon returning he found a nation “united in American resolve.”
“To this day, I continue to pray that our country returns to the unity, resolve, spirit and mission we all felt,” he said.
To close the ceremony, Dell O. Barnes played God Bless America on saxophone.