ECHS grad, veteran keynote speaker
By SHERRY DIGMON
Escambia County High School administration, faculty, staff and student body honored veterans with a program Wednesday, November 9
The guest speaker was doubly qualified to stand before this group – he is a veteran and he is an ECHS graduate.
ECHS faculty member Stephanie Buitron (herself a veteran) introduced the speaker: The guest speaker was born and raised in Atmore and graduated from Escambia County High School in 1981 where he was a standout basketball player. He has three adult children, a daughter and two sons. He entered the United States Navy in 1983 and served as a Mechanical Operator aboard a nuclear-powered battle ship, achieving the rank of MM1, Machinist Mate 1st Class
During his time in the Navy, he received the Sea Service Medal, which recognizes those service members who have performed military duty while stationed on a United States Navy vessel at sea and/or have been forwarddeployed with their home unit. He also received the
Expert Marksman Medal which is the highest award one may receive for weapons qualification, and the Good Conduct Medal that is issued to active duty enlisted sailors who complete honorable and faithful service
After retiring from the Navy and returning to Atmore, he worked as the Business and Finance Manager for Johnson Ford, then the assistant vice president for First National Bank and Trust. He then became a vice president at United Bank. During this time, he was a member of the Atmore City Council.
“He currently serves as the Economic Planner and Grant Writer for the City of Atmore.” Buitron said. “However, his favorite title and most important is my big brother – Mr. Christopher Walker.”
Walker talked about attending Jefferson Davis Community College (now Coastal Alabama Community College) on a basketball scholarship, but realized after a couple of years his dream of going to the NBA was not going to happen. A friend who joined the Navy right out of high school encouraged Walker to join the Navy. He even told him which program to go into in order to get stationed in San Diego, Calif. – beaches, warm weather, what could be better?
So Walker signed up … and was sent to Great Lakes, Ill.
“When I got off the bus, the snow was above my knees,” he said. “I had not seen enough snow in my life to make a snowball before that.”
Walker enrolled in machinist school, a self-paced 12-week program he completed in two weeks in order to leave the cold Great Lakes. Next stop was Orlando to attend a six-month school to study nuclear propulsion which would qualify him to serve on a nuclear powered ship. For hands-on training, he had to go to upstate New York – back in the snow and cold.
Training complete, Walker went to Norfolk, Virginia and aboard the USS Mississippi, from there to the Mediterranean, Europe and the Virgin Islands.
He hurt his back on the ship and left the military, but he took lasting lessons and experiences with him. He was taught to think critically and quickly and to be goal-oriented. He also got to see parts of the world he would not otherwise have seen.
Walker read a Veterans Day speech (published on page 4 of this edition).
In his closing remarks about freedom, Walker said, “We all share freedom. Freedom isn’t free. (He asked all veterans in the audience to stand.) Freedom comes at a cost … it’s borne by the people you see standing here, also by the names on monuments and cemeteries with the marble headstones in a perfect line.”
The program also included the National Anthem by the ECHS Band; History of Veterans Day by masters of ceremony Shamirica Rankins, Stephen Williams, and Ariyana Young; Armed Forces Medley by the band and recognition of military personnel by the masters of ceremony; public officials recognition; faculty member Stephanie McGhee presenting the poem “I Am a Soldier in the Army of God;” and a mural tribute by students.
Stephanie McGhee organized this year’s program.
This speech (author unknown) was delivered by Chris Walker at the Escambia County High School Veterans Day program Wednesday, November 9.
On the 11th hour … of the 11th day … of the 11th month … the fighting of World War I ended in 1918.
Due to the conclusion of “The War to End All Wars,” November 11th became a universally recognized day of celebration.
The day was originally declared “Armistice Day” eight years after the end of World War I and honored only veterans of that war. Then in 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, it was renamed Veterans Day to honor all veterans who served America in war and defended democracy.
So, today we honor all our veterans … who unselfishly placed their lives on the line for our freedom.
Those men and women were ordinary people … until they heard the call of duty and answered it. They left their families … their homes … and their lives … not for recognition or fame or even the honor we bestow upon them today. They fought to protect our country … to maintain our way of life.
As we honor our veterans and remember their great deeds, let us also salute those who are currently fighting for our freedom.
The War on Terrorism has helped us all realize how truly unique the American way of life is. The freedom we enjoy is extremely special, and that is why we must defend it.
So, now is the time to not only honor those have fought or are fighting for our freedom … it is also the time for each of us to take part in protecting it.
The defense of freedom is not just for those in the military; each of us shares that duty and that responsibility.
We don’t have to join the Army or the Navy or any other organization of defense to actively defend our way of life. We can protect our freedom simply by maintaining it here in America.
If we want to preserve our freedoms, we must put them into action – for example, by voting in elections or speaking out against injustices. We must also ensure that everyone feels the benefits of freedom. And we can do that by volunteering in our communities or teaching our children what it really means to be an American.
Veterans Day isn’t just a day for veterans – it’s a day for all Americans. It’s a day to remember why they were fighting and a day for all of us to begin our journey of protecting our freedom and the freedom of many future generations.
Thank you for honoring our veterans today. Let us walk toward tomorrow still honoring them … by living in the freedom they protected.