Lourdes Central Catholic hosted distinguished speakers on Friday as part of its school assembly honoring veterans in advance of Veterans Day, which was observed on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Principal Curt Feilmeier gave opening remarks before introducing Col. Cathy Kassube and Col. Lynn Heng. Both are Catholic school graduates with Heng being a Lourdes Central Catholic alum.
Feilmeier told the assembly that America appreciates the service of its veterans and could never hope to repay them for the service provided to their country.
“Today, it’s our privilege to say thank you to all of America’s veterans, to let them know we appreciate them for their service and honor them for their sacrifices,” Feilmeier said. “The price of freedom is high. We can not forget those who are willing to pay for it.”
Feilmeier introduced Col. Kassube as the first speaker of the program by introducing her as the Emergency Preparedness liaison officer for the state of Nebraska.
Kassube said she was pleased to have the chance to speak to the Lourdes students.
“Thank you for letting me come and speak with you today and observe Veterans Day, a day set aside each year to both remember and honor our brave fighting men and women who, for the past more than 240 years, have underwritten our freedom with their duty, honor and selfless service,” she said.
Kassube said the purpose of her remarks at the program was to give consideration to the idea of service. She first defined service as the act of helping and of doing work for others.
Kassube said students at Lourdes are required to perform service hours because the school wants its students to look out into the world, to see there is a need, and to help those people.
In performing service, Kassube said you get to be a part of something greater than yourself, you get to step out of your comfort zone and you get to discover and develop skills while working to build relationships with others.
Kassube said military service is a way to serve you community in a powerful way. Kassube said the military offers training, equal opportunity and a chance to see the world and to build relationships with other people while helping to secure America’s freedoms.
Service in the military comes with sacrifice. Kassube said those in the military sacrifice by being away from their families, by sometimes being in dangerous situations and, in some cases, by making the ultimate sacrifice.
“Sometimes the hours are long and the conditions are difficult,” she said. “But there is no questioning the importance of what we are doing.”
Having the chance to serve in the military is something that Kassube said she feels has been essential to her life’s journey. In preparing for her talk at Lourdes, Kassube said she came to realize that fact even more.
“This opportunity has given me a chance to reflect back on what my years of service have meant and the people who I have met along the way,” she said. “It really has formed who I am and the experiences I have been able to have.”
As Lourdes students got ready to leave the assembly, Kassube encouraged them to think about the concept of service and how they could make a difference in their community. Although military service is one way, Kassube said students could make a difference in other ways.
“It doesn’t have to be in the military. It could be in any way in your community,” she said. “Life isn’t about yourself. It’s about all of us taking care of each other.”
At the conclusion of Kassube’s talk, Feilmeier returned to the podium to introduce Col. Heng. Feilmeier introduced Heng as the Director of Aviation and Safety for the Nebraska Army National Guard and noted Heng’s service to the United States military in numerous locations abroad as part of separate deployments.
Heng opened his remarks by talking about the definition of what it is to be a veteran and later noted perspectives on a number of issues.
As to the definition of veteran, Heng said a veteran is a person who served for any length of time in any military service branch. Heng said the duration of service or location of service was not important because all members of the military are required to sign an oath to their country that indicates they will serve and that they are willing to lay down their life in service to the country.
Heng indicated that veterans today are spoiled with the great appreciation they receive from the public.
“When we come back from Iraq or Afghanistan, we are overwhelmed by support and thanks beyond imagination,” Heng said.
That wasn’t always the case.
In the not-too-distant past, soldiers who returned from battle were not appreciated. Heng said veterans from the Vietnam era were often times disrespected and Heng encouraged everyone to make sure those veterans knew the public appreciated that service.
“I ask that if you ever have a chance to talk to a Vietnam veteran, thank them for their service,” Heng said.
Heng then talked about a number of issues and noted that perspective, or the way that you look at things, is key.
U.S. Battle Deaths
In war, Heng said, death is inevitable. These days, when its learned that soldiers have died on the battlefield, Heng said there is great deal of frustration. In past wars, however, many more members of the military were killed. The perspective back then, Heng said, was that the deaths were a sacrifice required for freedom.
NFL protest
Heng said he saw his own perspective change after digesting the issue of players kneeling during the National Anthem prior to NFL games or other athletic events. Initially, Heng said he was very upset about the practice but then said he realized their freedom of speech was a primary reason why he made the commitment to join the military and to go to war if called.
He made it clear that he didn’t appreciate the idea of kneeling during the anthem but wanted protesters to have the right to kneel.
“That’s what we go to war for,” he said. “That’s what we fight for is the freedom of speech.”
Heng said through his travels and work with the military he has met a lot of folks, including Muslims, who were willing to put their lives on their line to make their country better. The American people, Heng said, might be tempted to think that all Muslims hate Americans. In his experience, most Muslims are not inclined to do harm to anyone.
He encouraged students to have an open mind about people from other countries who might come to the United States to pursue greater opportunities.
Heng said that while the students at the assembly enjoy the freedom to seek an education and feel safe, such is not the case in other countries.
Heng said students in other nations fear for their safety in going to school or may be denied access to education. He encouraged the Lourdes students to realize the educational opportunities that come from living here.
And Heng then closed his talk by telling the students to stay united, to seek the truth and to try not to focus on the negative.
Heng said the students should be proud to be Americans and should work to retain the American heritage of working hard and trying to make things better.