“It is an honor, a privilege and a great blessing to stand before you here today, to give a testimony to those who have paid the ultimate price in service to their country,” Ward said. “Every man and woman who dons the uniform in military service knows that the day may come when they will be called to sacrifice for their country. For some, it ends up being the ultimate sacrifice.”
He said the deceased veterans being honored and remembered that day modeled “selfless service” and love because “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
The chaplain said the sacrifices that have been made ask “for a response from us.”
“I would like to pause and express my gratitude to those who have paid the ultimate price. They are the true patriots,” Ward said.
Those in the armed forces who do not die in service to their country make continual sacrifices, Ward said.
“You sacrifice in time you could be with family, sometimes in deployment, sometimes with long days, sometimes with long training exercises,” Ward said. “You sacrifice creature comforts as you eat food, seemingly drained of any taste it ever had … but those sacrifices are temporary.”
The range of sacrifice varies for each military person, from smaller sacrifices up to losing a limb or dying in the line of duty. Ward said the families of those who serve also make sacrifices.
“While we look to these heroes and the ultimate sacrifice that was made, do not forget that they live a life characterized by sacrifice. In order to impact this world in a positive way, we must have a sacrificial spirit within us,” Ward said.
He pointed out those who live a sacrificial life are lights in a dark world.
A military person’s life is also characterized by love for those with whom they serve. Ward saw this love was demonstrated when he held his first memorial service while in Baghdad, Iraq, for four fallen soldiers.
“I was a brand new first lieutenant,” he reflected. “I graduated seminary and immediately was deployed to this unit as chaplain.”
The day of the memorial service was set and hundreds of people came to the base to attend.
“Each [late] soldier’s picture was posted up in front of a pair of combat boots, a rifle, a helmet and a set of dog tags, the standard military memorial ceremony,” Ward said. “At the conclusion of the service, for hours soldiers were lined up and approached the memorial display to render one, slow, deliberate final salute … seeing that love touched me deeply.”
The sacrifices of those who have given their lives should “spur us on” to have sacrificial love for others, Ward said.
Ward served in the Marines, achieving the rank of corporal before becoming a chaplain. In addition to being a chaplain, Ward also serves as the pastor of West Cleveland Baptist Church.
During the ceremony, those who served from Bradley County in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam, Korean and Iraq wars were honored as their names were read.
Veterans who died within the last year were also honored as 160 names were read in the final roll call.
This year’s Memorial Day celebration marked the beginning of a new service award in Bradley County. The Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council presented its first Veterans Service Award to Bill Norwood.
Council co-chairs Mark Hall and Cid Heidel presented the award. Heidel said Norwood is involved in several veterans organizations and often travels to help honor deceased veterans. Norwood, who was a prisoner of war from April 1951 to August 1953 during the Korean War, also dedicates his time to visiting veterans in nursing homes or hospitals and helping provide transportation to doctor’s appointments for veterans in the area.
“We thank you for all your years of commitment and service,” Heidel said.
Norwood said the award caught him by surprise.
“This is a great honor … I’m no hero. I’m just an old country boy from East Tennessee who happens to love his country and his fellow man,” Norwood said. “I remember those days, weeks, months and even years that I struggled for survival as a prisoner of war. I would often look around me at the deplorable conditions — the pain and suffering and the despair, and I would ask myself, ‘Is the end result really worth all of this misery? Does anyone really care? I wonder if anyone will remember?’”
He added, “Well, you have answered my question here today by presenting me with this prestigious award, which makes me think, ‘Yes, there are those who care … there are those who still remember. Thank you for this honor. Thank you for caring and most of all thank you for remembering.”
The SETVHC plans to present the award annually during the Memorial Day remembrance.