In a room packed with veterans from nearly every war, along with those there to pay respect, Charlie Daniels honored America's veterans who have, or are, serving this country.
This week the Mt. Juliet Morning Rotary held their annual Veterans Breakfast at Victory Baptist church. The event drew hundreds who heard from Daniels, as well as listened to Mt. Juliet High's chorus whom sang a medley of patriotic songs.
Special guest Carolyn Grover is one of the area's oldest female soldiers at age 93. She said she spent much of her time providing physical therapy to returned soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Daniels was emotional during his speech and shed his customary cowboy hat while he spoke.
"I was born in 1936 and remember the day the Japanese Imperial Forces attacked the United States military facility in Pearl Harbor, and my formative years were spent during the Second World War," he said. "I recall the roots of my own personal patriotism, and I feel so beholden to our veterans and how deeply I love the nation they defend."
Daniels said we owe our veterans an unpayable debt of gratitude.
"I learned very early in my life that only two things protected America: the grace of Almighty God and the United States military," he said. "It was that way then, it is that way now and will forever be that way as long as America remains a free and sovereign nation."
Daniels has previously spoken at the Veteran breakfast and shared that he thought about writing a new speech this Veteran's Day, but he decided rather to speak from the heart. He recalled his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, that played "an important part in the war effort."
"American ships leaving the port of Wilmington were attacked and sunk by German U-boats just off our shores, so close it was said, you could see the fires of battle from our beaches. It was situated near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and in addition to being a strategic port for shipping war materials across the Atlantic, there was also a shipyard that built Liberty Ships.
In the middle of his speech he bluntly asked, "What the h*** has happened to our country?"
"Any conversation about what is wrong in America usually starts and ends with scathing criticism of the men and women we send to the national and state capitols to represent us and handle the business of running our nation. And while it's true that a wide river of guilt as deep as a horse's bridle flows out of Washington, D.C. and the various and sundry centers of political power around this nation, can we take a deep breath, pause and consider a much overlooked but pertinent fact," he said.
"A nation's greatness is not reckoned by the caliber of its politicians, but conversely the greatness of its politicians is reckoned by the caliber of its people.
"Politicians are a reflection of the people who put them in office, the end product of our needs, our desires, our greed, our selfishness, our ever-increasing permissive attitude toward society, our willingness to tolerate issues and policies we know are detrimental to the nation as long as it doesn't effect us directly."
Daniels noted a recent poll revealed 44 percent of the population "in this country no longer take pride in being Americans."
"How can people who have been blessed just to be born and have citizenship in this nation possibly not feel pride in the fact?" he said.
The most emotional part of his speech was near the conclusion when he named about a dozen scenarios, such has "watching the purple shadows deepen in the Arizona desert," a "sun go down in Hawaii, the Ice Palace in Saint Paul and the Gateway to the West."
He said goodbye, nearly in tears, as he pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.