Today is Friday, August 18, 2017

'I choose to stand for my country'

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Del Webb Veteran's Day ceremony patriotic salute

MT. JULIET - In Mt. Juliet at the annual Veteran's Day ceremony at Del Webb, Cpt. Ted Heflin, commanding officer at Vanderbilt University NROTC, honed in on why he chooses to stand, instead of take the knee, when the National Anthem is played and sung.

Before his eloquent remarks there was a poignant salute to the American flag, and those who served their country were the focus of a standing-room-only Veteran's Day ceremony held in the clubhouse at Del Webb Providence Friday morning.

The crowd was filled with men and women in uniform and citizens dressed in the colors of Old Glory as a 45-minute salute to veterans took place. Many there were tearful as they honored this national day of observance of more than 25 million veterans who have served our country in both war and peace.

A rousing, and at times melancholy, medley of patriotic songs sung by members of the Del Webb chorus set the mood for the event. They sang each military branch's signature song as audience members stood up to represent their military status.

Another highlight of the program was a Presentation of the Colors by the Vanderbilt University NROTC Color Guard. Many city and officials attended the ceremony, including Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty, commissioners Brian Abston and Ray Justice, as well as State Rep. Susan Lynn.

However, it was Cpt. Heflin who spoke most to our times during his reverent address.

He said when he was asked two months ago to speak for Veteran's Day, "I had no idea the months would provide such material," such as the historic win of the Chicago Cubs and the historic presidential election.

"I decided to go back to another lesser-watched news story about a football player, and subsequent others, who decided not to stand during the National Anthem," he said. "I won't attack them, but rather say why I believe to stand for the Anthem. It's about honor, courage and commitment."

He said America is not perfect and there is some work to do, but "veterans know what is right about us and that we are worth defending and honoring. It's a time [during the National Anthem and beyond] to pause and reflect on our democracy... it's my honor to stand. I believe to stand."

Heflin said, "Some believe it takes courage to kneel."

"I believe it takes courage to stand up and meet the consequences of a higher need. Standing is a commitment. We rely on respect. And, veterans know to respect all people. It's a commitment to our country."

Heflin concluded his speech to say courage and character are worthy for which to stand.

"It's standing beside past vets and future veterans and our country," he said. "I hope you stand to honor."

Indeed, the entire crowd stood with hands over hearts.

Most poignant were the proud members of each military branch who stood and saluted to their branch song.

Air Force members belted out their song, a small, but mighty group. Other branches had only one to four members but were solid in their patriotism to their war effort.

All were proud of their service and proud of this salute in Mt. Juliet.

Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at

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