Downer: ‘If we forget veterans, we lose’
Maj. Gen. Hunt Downer, retired National Guard, former speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives and first state director of Veterans Affairs spoke to veterans and guests Thursday at the Franklin Recreation Center.
Downer was the featured speaker at an “Honoring our Veterans Luncheon” sponsored by the St. Mary Parish Council, St. Mary Community Action Agency and St. Mary Council on Aging.
“If we ever forget veterans, we lose,” Downer said. “We know what we went through. Our families know what we went through, and they live it with us every day.”
Downer said it was the audience’s challenge to “make everyone aware of the sacrifices that have been made, aware of the commitment we have made, to make them understand that what they’ve got was paid for with our most precious commodity, or most expensive commodity, the blood of our fellow veterans.”
He said in recent surveys, high school students were asked who won World War II and many were unable to give the correct answer.
“If we can teach those coming behind us the lessons that we learned, maybe, just maybe, someday in the future we won’t have war,” Downer said. “We won’t have the hatred that’s out there, the people trying to destroy our way of life and our freedom.”
He applauded the Junior ROTC students present, and the Head Start students who led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Only thirty-one words that everyone in this room who is a veteran has said, and meant and lived by,” he said. “A veteran begins service by signing a blank check to Uncle Sam. A blank check that Uncle Sam can cash, up to and including the life of that veteran.”
Such sacrifices protect liberty, Downer said.
“Thirty one words that begin with ‘I’,” he said. “And at the end, ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ Isn’t it amazing that we start off with ‘I’ and end up with ‘all.’ And in between that, ‘one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’ It doesn’t matter how much rank you have, how important you think you are, there’s someone above us who is a real commander.”
He said veterans are interested in peace, not war though will stand to fight if necessary.
Downer said that’s why soldiers make that commitment to their country, and “Veterans Day serves to recognize, why is it that all those who are not here today do not understand? Why is it that all those who will be at the Friday night football game don’t understand? Let us take up the challenge to get the word out. We’re veterans, we’re proud. We’re Americans, we’re proud, and because of that, they have the liberties they have.”
Those liberties, he said, include “the right of the protester to protest. Let us not forget that.”
Other speakers and ceremony participants included 3rd Ward Court Marshal David McCoy, Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Duval Arthur, Franklin Mayor Raymond Harris and CAA Director Almetra Franklin.