Source: Faith Bemiss | DemocratSmith-Cotton High School Show Choir sings at the 2016 Veterans Day ceremonies at the Pettis County Courthouse Friday morning.
Special guest speaker for Veterans Day ceremonies Friday morning was Brigadier Gen. Paul W. Tibbets IV, the commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base.
Tibbets spoke on the Pettis County Courthouse steps to a large group of veterans and citizens, reminding the public that America has the “best military in the world” and he thanked the community for supporting the men and women who serve.
“It reminds us all too often what a privilege it is to do what we do,” he noted. “We could never do what we do without your support.”
Tibbets told the crowd that WAFB “honors those that have come before us,” and “those that come after us.”
“We honor those that served; the shoulders of giants on which we stand on,” he noted. “Because we understand that we would not be where we are today had it not been for those that served before us.
“We understand that this nation is a great nation because of those people who have served, and continue to serve,” Tibbets said.
Tibbets spoke to the crowd about his grandfather, the late Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets Jr., who flew the Enola Gay in World War II and dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
“He played a significant role in our nation’s history,” Tibbets said. “At Whiteman we celebrate our history, we celebrate our heritage, we celebrate those that have come before us. Not just to honor them … but we also do it because history makes us smarter, heritage makes us prouder …”
He added that all the men and women who served before him “set the stage” for him to be able to serve. His grandfather, Paul Tibbets Jr., was pulled out of the war, brought back to Nebraska and was asked to learn to fly the B-29.
“It was the only airplane that could deliver these weapons,” Tibbets said. “At the time my grandfather had no idea why he was doing what he was doing, only that he was a great American who wanted to serve his country. Generations of Americans are alive because those great men did what they did.”
Tibbets said in 1948 his grandfather was invited to the White House by President Harry Truman. He noted that a friend told him that Truman probably “knew exactly what your grandfather and those that he served with were going through.”
He noted that the burden of what has to be done in war can weigh heavy on the men and women who serve. The conversation his grandfather had with the President prepared him for the rest of his life.
” … Look it’s not going to be all rosy,” Tibbets said. “As you continue to live and as people continue to develop their great thoughts … it may not be always great for them. If you have ever heard my grandfather speak, you would know that his last day that he was breathing on this earth … he said ‘we did the right thing, because it was the right thing to do. We did exactly what we were supposed to do and we brought that war to an end.’
“The messengers tend to get blamed in the military because we are carrying out orders,” Tibbets added. “He was asked over and over if he had any regrets, until his last breath his answer was ‘no.’”
Tibbets noted that the men and women who serve are not “serving themselves, that’s not who we are.”
“Our folks who are out in law enforcement, and all the other areas of people who serve, serve something bigger than who they are,” he said. “Just like them, our military puts their lives on the line too, to do what their nation asks them to do.”
Tibbets added that he was honored to lead the “great” airmen at WAFB.
“Here’s my final message to you … we remember those folks that served before us.” he said. “We remember those that served … we are a grateful nation that remembers service and those that sacrificed for us, for your sons and daughters.”
Also participating in the ceremony was Smith-Cotton High School Show Choir, the S-C JROTC Color Guard and American Legion Post 642 National Champion Color Guard. A Laying of the Wreaths ceremony was conducted commemorating all wars from World War I to the present and also military working dogs.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.