In his invocation Monday at an annual Armed Forces Day luncheon, retired Navy chaplain James Christian prayed that Clark County would remain a place of support and comfort for those who serve.
The luncheon is in its 32nd year, having been started as a Springfield Air National Guard Base initiative. It’s now sponsored by the Springfield Rotary, Kiwanis and Exchange clubs, along with the Miami Valley Military Affairs Association, as a way to honor locals who serve.
Uniformed representatives of local Guard units and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base mingled with community members at the Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center for lunch and an address by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
“We’re free in this country because the people in this room vowed to keep it that way,” Portman said.
He spoke of the U.S. military’s tradition of selflessness that began when George Washington stepped down as head of the nation’s Army, a move that dumbfounded the British he’d just defeated.
Portman also shared a story about former Gen. Colin Powell, then serving as U.S. secretary of state, talking to a cynical European press corps at the start of the Iraq War.
“The United States has come onto this continent twice in the last century to save you from tyranny,” Powell told the Europeans. “All we ever asked was for enough land to bury our dead.”
“You could’ve heard a pin drop,” Portman added.
Portman said Monday that one such legendary group of servicemen — the Doolittle Raiders of World War II, who took the fight to Japan after Pearl Harbor — will likely receive the Congressional Gold Medal. The medal would be housed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he said.
He also spoke of those who were inspired by the events of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to join the military. After more than a decade of war, locales that weren’t known to most Americans are now known as well as Midway.
“We know about Kandahar. We know about Fallujah,” Portman said. “They’ve taken their place alongside Bunker Hill and Khe Sanh.”
Retired Col. Ralph Anderson, a past commander of Springfield’s 178th Fighter Wing, noted that members of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 37th Special Troops Battalion were largely absent from last year’s luncheon because they were deployed to Afghanistan and Bahrain.
They’re back, but another unit is gone.
More than 200 soldiers from the Guard’s locally based 371st Sustainment Brigade are at Fort Hood in Texas preparing for deployment to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.