Guest speaker Gen. Hammon presents at annual Veterans Day program

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Jeff Hammond gave his seven reasons to stand for the American flag and the National Anthem during the 21st annual Veterans Day breakfast sponsored by Oak Grove High School students at Temple Baptist Church’s Christian Activities Center.

Hammond, who is a former Southern Miss athletic director, serves as the director of Military and Veterans Student Affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi.

“My parents taught me and I taught my children that you stand in honor for this nation and you kneel for an awesome God,” he said to the veterans, students and other at the breakfast ceremony. “Veterans are the insurance policy for this nation. You are the insurance policy by which we are able to choose to stand or kneel.”

Hammond said two traditional reasons exist why we should stand for our National Anthem and our flag.

“First, it’s the law,” he said. “Federal law exists regarding the standing of the National Anthem and the display of our flag. … All present should stand at attention and non-military individuals should face the flag with their right hand over their heart. … However, this federal statute does have any penalties associated with violation.

“The second reason is respect. I believe the American flag represents the veterans who served to preserve our freedoms. When I think of you veterans, I recognize that all gave some, but some gave all and can’t be with us here.

Hammond also said he has personal seven reasons why he believes Americans should stand for the flag and the National Anthem.

“We stand because God blesses this country,” he said. “In 1918, Irving Berlin wrote a prayer; he revised it before World War II.”

The prayer became the song, “God Bless America,” he said.

“The second reason is we stand because veterans – you men and women and your families – preserved our freedom through steadfast loyalty, honor and country,” Hammond continued. “The third reason is because I believe God created this nation and each of us in His likeness. Part of that likeness is to treat each other and all things with dignity and respect.”

Hammond said the fourth reason is because of the people who came before us.

“We should stand because others stood before us and refused to take a knee,” he said. “They stood for your freedom. These veterans who are here today appreciate it more than anyone. Iwo Jima was the bloodiest conflict of World War II. U.S. forces went to the Japanese island on Feb. 19, 1942, and it lasted more than a month. By the time the battle came to an end, almost 7,000 American lives were lost 20,000 were wounded. And if you look closely on photographs of the American flag being raised on Iwo Jima, none of those men are kneeling.”

The miracle of freedom is Hammond’s fifth reason to stand for the flag and the National Anthem.

“There have been two remarkable miracles of God that have impacted this nation,” he said. “One is the Declaration of Independence and the other is the Constitution. There are no other explanations for those two documents and the men and women that shaped them other than through a true miracle of God. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – although those three words well-known, they are in our Declaration of Independence, those are three examples of our inalienable rights.”

Hammond recounted his military experience as part of the sixth reason.

“I commanded 28,000 soldiers in combat in Iraq,” he said. “I lost 94 killed in action and about 3,000 were wounded. For those I lost and those who were wounded, they had a lot in common. Over their heart they had a tape that said, ‘You have heart.’ On their shoulders they had the flag of the United States of America. Those brave men and women went forth to make the difference. How dare we not honor them by standing?”

The seventh reason, Hammond said, is because of the veterans.

“We stand in honor of the insurance policy that allowed this nation to be free,” he said. “That is the best term for the men and women and families who stood, served and serve this day. The American flag is a symbol that we have greater and more freedom than any other people in the world. This is why we are able to celebrate and honor our veterans.”

During the ceremony, Oak Grove High School Student Body President Noah Harris welcomed veterans and guests, the posting of the American Flag and service flags was done by VFW 3036 Honor Guard, Riley Barber sand the National Anthem and OGHS Principal Helen Price provided closing remarks.