Taking for granted the blessings of everyday life, we forget that many of those gifts were won at the cost of blood and lives, Major General Terry “Max” Haston told The Rotary Club of McMinnville on Thursday.
“They gave not just their lives but their futures as well, everything that might have been,” the speaker said in Rotary’s traditional pre-Memorial Day program in the fellowship hall of First Presbyterian Church.
Haston, who grew up and attended schools in McMinnville, retired in March 2019 as Tennessee’s 75th Adjutant General. In that position, he commanded the state’sArmy National Guard, Air National Guard and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. He was also a member of the cabinet of two governors, where he served as Commissioner of the Department of the Military.
He recalled the history of the Memorial Day observance starting in 1868 with the decoration of the graves of Union soldiers and officers who died in the recently concluded Civil War. While placing their floral tributes on freshly dug graves, parents of federal soldiers were moved to share their flowers also with the nearby burial sites of Confederate fallen, perhaps the first step toward healing and national reconciliation.
Our individual freedoms and national independence, sovereignty and self-rule were all earned and secured by those who fought, including the many who died, Haston emphasized. He urged his audience to take a moment at 3 p.m. Monday to join fellow Americans in a moment of reverent silence, offering a gesture of gratitude to all who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Elsewhere in his remarks at Noon Rotary, Haston reflected on his year-and-ahalf leading an American unit training field officers of the Ukrainian national army. With an air of sorrow, he noted his feelings in seeing news photos of the office tower in Kiev that once housed his headquarters. “It is now rubble. It was heartbreaking.”
In assessing the possible outcomes of the war, Haston predicted Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the invasion of its western neighbor Feb. 24, would not be satisfied until the components of the former Soviet Union and its client Warsaw Pact nations were reunited in powerful opposition to America and all the West.
The speaker remembered the Western euphoria when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, heralding the collapse of the Soviet Union a couple of years later.
As “a young captain” serving at Polish base facing the Soviet frontier, Haston witnessed Communist officers and soldiers climbing down from their observation towers, suggesting a virtual capitulation. In a moment of apparent Western victory, his colonel somberly warned, “They will be back.”
Haston expands on his Rotary remarks when he appears this week in a half-hour FOCUS interview on McMinnville Public Radio 91.3-WCPI. That conversation airs Tuesday at 5 p.m., Wednesday at 5 a.m., Thursday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1 a.m.