By Jeff Murphy, May 25, 2016
WARRENSBURG, MO – Quoting a passage from former President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, a retired Marine veteran, Major John T. Schwent, said words spoken in 1865 are still relevant today when considering the important role military personnel play in preserving peace.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Schwent, a 23-year veteran who now serves as executive director of Camp Valor Outdoors in Kingsville, was the keynote speaker during the pre-Memorial Day Ceremony that took place in the UCM Alumni Chapel May 25. More than 60 people, including local veterans, campus and community residents, and members of Whiteman Air Force Base, attended the annual event, coordinated by UCM’s Office of Military and Veteran Services.
During his remarks, Schwent talked about the dedication of military members to protecting the freedoms that are enjoyed by all Americans. He cited an example of two men who were killed in the line of duty while guarding a gate at a military installation that also housed some Iraqi police officers who were helping the U.S. to fight the Al-Queda. Although both Marines lost their lives, their bravery and actions which occurred as the suicide bomber approached the gate saved the lives of more than 150 people.
Schwent said a review of the surveillance system at the site of the bombing showed within a six-second timeframe a truck, which was entering a serpentine and not slowing down as it headed toward the gate. The two Marines standing guard had to make a quick decision about whether or not to draw their weapons and fire or flee to save their own lives. Both men began firing on the truck to get it to stop.
“The report showed the truck stopped immediately in front of the two marines. In all the violence, they (the Marines) never hesitated…they never even stepped back, they never even stepped aside. In fact, they never even shifted their weight,” Schwent said in describing the heroics of both servicemen. “With their feet spread forward, they leaned into it as long as their weapons could hold out. They only had one second to live. The truck explodes, the camera goes blank and two young men go to their God. A total of six second seconds - not enough time to think about their families, to think about their country or their flag or about their lives or about their deaths; only enough time for two very brave men to do their duty into eternity.”
“These are the kinds of people who are on watch all over the world tonight,” Schwent told the gathering. “These are the kinds of people who wear all of our services uniforms and pay the ultimate sacrifice because of us.”
He urged the audience to think about the men and women in uniform, and give thanks for their efforts. They “are the real reason we celebrate Memorial Day,” he said.
The ceremony at UCM included remarks by UCM President Charles Ambrose; a video presentation of singer Johnny Cash’s “The Old Rugged Flag”; the presentation of colors by the Whiteman Air Force Base Color Guard; a Moment of Honor in recognition of U.S. prisoners of war and soldiers who are missing in action by Sgt. Damon Gates, a UCM and ROTC alumnus; and laying of the wreath by Ross Chambers, commander of VFW Post 2513, and Gene Reid, commander of American Legion Post 131. Also during the event, Eric Endsley, administrator at the Missouri Veterans Home, read a poem written by Jim Pemberton saluting veterans. There was a three-volley salute featuring the joint rifle guard of VFW Post 2513 and American Legion Post 131 members; the performance of “TAPS” by David Aaberg, UCM Department of Music; and singing of the National Anthem by UCM alumna Candace Fowler. Robin Crouch, chair of the Warrensburg Chamber Military Affairs Committee, served as emcee.