For The Voice­less

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Humphrey

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.”

MARK HUMPHREY EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

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.

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