For The Voiceless
FARMINGTON — An entire assembly stood in solemn silence as the prisoner of war (P.O.W.) flag was presented during the Farmington High School annual Veterans Day program Friday at Cardinal Arena.
That collective, singular act of reverence set the stage for guest speaker,
Sgt. Marshall Kennedy, USMC (ret.), who lost both legs above the knee June 13, 2011, while deployed to Afghanistan as part of “Operation Enduring Freedom.”
Five months into the deployment, Kennedy suffered severe damage to his left arm and lost both legs in an IED attack. He was previously deployed twice to Iraq for “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Kennedy became a voice for the voiceless, for those taken prisoner or killed on the
battlefield, for those who never experienced the joy of returning home.
Kennedy meekly acknowledged the introduction by Farmington High School Principal Jon Purifoy, who originated the school’s Veterans Day Assembly six years ago.
“It’s a little odd every time somebody might mention what I done or anything else. It wasn’t really that much, to be honest with you, so it’s a little weird when somebody reads it out,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy was not ungrateful, yet keenly aware he is among thousands of combat veterans who exposed themselves to the same potential dangers.
“I know a lot of guys who done a lot more,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy admitted he felt challenged to capture the spirit of Veterans Day in a speech, asking himself, “I try to think what does this day mean to me? What was it like when I was in your shoes as a child growing up here … here in Arkansas, here in this country?”
Kennedy spoke of his grandfather, who ever since Kennedy was little, always tried to portray “a sense of pride and love for this country.”
“He never pressured me or anybody else to ever join the Marines or any other military service, it was just kind of what came about,” Kennedy said. “I had admiration for the military and a strong liking ever since I was like 10 years old. Then from there, it just stuck.”
Kennedy admonished high school students to recognize the potential teachers and others see in them.
Recalling his grandfather and others with influence in his life as young man, Kennedy said, “All they wanted to do is just make sure I was a fruitful person, was able to provide (for a family) and do well in this country.
Kennedy told students that sums up the hope for the future of this nation.
“That’s all that they would want you all to do for this country,” Kennedy said. “Not sit here and take everything for granted. That’s kind of what today is about.”
Kennedy conveyed a message to those who’ve never had their existence threatened by an unseen enemy creeping across a desert landscape.
“We’ve got a good life here,” Kennedy said. “I know it doesn’t seem like it sometimes. Everybody gets wrapped around about all the different things that goes on on the news and everything else, but ultimately that’s the beauty is we still have a very great country and everything is very nice to us.”
Kennedy wants people to realize the significance of Veterans Day, explaining that even veterans could lose perspective.
“I did a Google search before I came here just to see what comes up and immediately it’s like, ‘hey, what can you get for free on Veterans Day?’” Kennedy said. “There’s a lot of guys who kind of milk that. If anything, that kind of burns me and a majority of other people. That’s not what this day is for.”
Kennedy concluded by urging students to ask themselves, “What’s great about this country? What can I do to make this place better?”
Farmington High School Crimson Select Ensemble sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” Senior class president Seth Swain led the Pledge of Allegiance. Farmington High School band under the direction of Jim Spillars performed “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Taps.”
Veterans seated in the center of Cardinal Arena stand while the prisoner of war (P.O.W.) flag is presented during Veterans Day ceremonies at Farmington High School on Friday.