MOUNT GILEAD — Retired Army Lt. Col. John Chapman and his daughter, Jessica Southard, in a back-and-forth forum, discussed why men and women were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country when they brought the Memorial Day address to Bryn Zion Cemetery.
Lt. Col. Chapman, a 1977 West Point graduate, who was the key leader in the largest tank battle America has ever fought, responded to several questions from Jessica, a 2002 West Point graduate who served two tours of duty in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division.
He responded to her question saying, “historians tell us the colonial settlers came here primarily for the freedom of speech, the freedom to assemble as they designed and all the other freedoms laid out in the Bill of Rights.”
“They were seeking a less oppressive government, a government of the people, for the people and by the people. Those concepts still inspire Americans today,” Chapman said. Jessica added her experiences in Iraq where women were not allowed to drive or own a home and a culture where only one religion was allowed.
Jessica asked why over a million Americans gave their lives in the Civil War and her father said, “They were fighting to remain a single country and others were fighting for what they believed were their way of life and rights for their state. They wanted to remain one nation, under God.” “Sounds like the Pledge of Allegiance we recited earlier,” Jessica said.
Americans laid down their lives during World Wars I and II on battlefields far from home because “among other reasons, we had matured as a country, and had enjoyed such a fabulous way of life that when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, we responded in defense of our nation,” John said.
Jessica described an incident while her family was living overseas when the Berlin Wall came down.
Asking why young Americans would be willing to go to Korea and Vietnam and make the ultimate sacrifice, John offered that at the end of the Great Wars, “we realized that we could not permit the enormous atrocities (such as the Holocaust) to happen again. We felt the need to protect the little guy.”
Jessica related her experience as a child visiting the Dachau Prison Camp in Germany and the emotions she felt touching the crematoriums where so many were exterminated.
Referring to today’s conflicts, John and Jessica agreed that when America was attacked on Sept. 11 young Americans were inspired to defend their families and their way of life. As they gazed over the 120-plus people in the audience, they fully understand that families were the most important reason.
Nick McKinney led the Pledge of Allegiance and Leigh Conant sang the National Anthem opening the service.
Other participants included the combined Color Guard from the Nelson E. Campbell Jr. VFW Post 8054 and AMVETS Post 87. Taps were played by Liam Shotwell.
Flags were rededicated earlier by Betty Ritchey.
Pastor Jeff Hubschman, Bryn Zion Baptist Church, offered the opening prayer and benediction. Ric Lyle gave the welcome and the closing.