13th annual YMCA Prayer Breakfast honors several veterans
MADISON — Several dignitaries and numerous civilians honored local veterans with music, awards and a delicious array of food at the 13th annual YMCA Prayer Breakfast Nov. 9 at the Hogan Family YMCA in Madison.
Both veterans and active duty military members made up about half of the morning’s attendees. The event began with the presentation of colors by members of the Bob Jones High School AFJROTC Honor Guard. As the students held the flags aloft, Sgt. Maj. Gregory Knight lent his voice for the national anthem.
CW4 (Ret.) Max Bennett, chairman of this year’s Huntsville/Madison County Veterans Week, then welcomed veterans and attendees before Madison Mayor Paul Finley spoke a few words.
“I thought this morning about how thankful I am, and I know all of you are, for our veterans—those who have served and took the oath and put themselves under fire or supported our country in a way that gives us freedom that we enjoy each and every other day,” Finley said to the crowd. “And I’m thankful for the families that supported those veterans—that agonized many times while they were gone—and the joy that they had when they came back.”
Finley also expressed his appreciation for contractors in giving the modern warfighter the edge they need to succeed, as well as the community for their continued support.
“This is special for us, and I’m very appreciative that we can do this each and every year,” he added.
Following Finley’s remarks, Bennett recognized attendee Jack Clift as a decorated World War II veteran, longtime supporter of the YMCA and prominent resident of Madison. Clift’s family has helped shape the Madison area since the mid-1800s, and Clift has served the city in many capacities for more than half a century.
This year’s keynote speaker was Maj. Gen. Paul Pardew, commanding general who is part of the Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal. Pardew, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, once described himself as a “product of the army.” His family members have served as far back as the Civil War, and he is now married to an army veteran. Today, the Pardew children continue their family’s legacy—his son is a recent graduate of VMI, and his daughter is in her first year there.
In his address, Pardew said he is proud to be part of the YMCA’s Prayer Breakfast. He also recognized and thanked all veterans and active duty military in attendance.
“Throughout the years, you have fought with unwavering courage and loyalty for this country,” he told them. “You have served as an example of strength for future generations and remained a light in searching for hope in an ever-changing world.”
In addition, Pardew recognized veterans’ contributions in shaping the success of today’s warfighter in the face of modernization and advancement.
“Today’s warfighter must have the determination to be ready for the mission,” Pardew declared. “As the world changes and the battlefield expands to new demands, such as cyber as well as pure adversaries challenging us on the land, air and sea, our nation’s security is paramount, and it is up to today’s men and women to follow in the footsteps of the legacy [veterans] have built.”
Pardew also expressed his appreciation for military families and his love for Huntsville’s “special” weeklong recognition of veterans, rather than limiting the celebrations to one day. He noted how proud he was to see various organizations in the area, which he described as “bursting with retired military,” celebrating and supporting veterans in many ways.
“I see this community encircling our military more than most others have seen and been part of,” Pardew noted. “I hope during Veterans Week 2018 you can feel a love for the community because I truly believe it’s something unique.”
In closing, Pardew expressed high hopes for the future of the United States military in a time where most of the new generation has grown up being familiar with war.
Following Pardew’s address, it was time for the presentation of the Bob Drolet Service to Veterans Award. Last year’s recipient, Cathy Anderson, recognized this year’s winner for her numerous contributions to military men, women and their families over the years. Now serving as president of the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organization Coalition, Beverly Lowe was named this year’s recipient of the award.
“This means a great deal to me … I’m very proud of it,” said an emotional Lowe.
Anderson described Lowe as a selfless woman who “never looks for recognition.”
“She never tried to redirect the activities, and she never wants to sit on the front row,” Anderson noted. “She just wants to stay behind the scenes and … make sure the special people we call veterans get the very best recognition they can possibly give them.”
The morning’s festivities closed with the presentation of several Silver Star Banners and certificates. Lowe and Silver Star Families of America Representative Richard Reyes presented.
Bennett noted that the Silver Star Banner, though not associated with the Silver Star Medal, was closely related to the Blue and Gold Star Service Banners.
The silver star denotes a “veteran or service member that has been wounded, suffered a serious injury or contracted a serious illness in a war zone.”
The banner is recognized with resolutions in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, according to Bennett.
This year, Though not every recipient hailed from Madison County, they all have planted roots in the area since serving.
A few recipients of the banners were inducted into the Madison County Military Heritage Commission’s Hall of Heroes later that weekend. Many were also Purple Heart recipients.
Others who contributed to this year’s prayer breakfast include Henry’s Mustang Cafe and Woody Anderson Ford, who provided the delectable breakfast buffet; Olivia Hitt, harpist; Kevin McGlamery, pastor of Life Church Huntsville, who gave the invocation; and Lt. Col. Paul Ramsey, command chaplain for the Army Contracting Command, who closed the event with the benediction.
“Even those who don’t serve our military can serve our nation in their own ways, and it is still our job to share the message,” Pardew said. “Let us never stop telling the story of patriotism.”