The Centenary College Choir ensemble performed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem, as part of the Shreveport college’s third annual Veterans Day Tribute.
The keynote address was delivered by the head of the Air Force Global Strike Command Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson.
Centenary’s president David Rowe introduced the general, calling him a friend and giving a snapshot of Wilson’s job overseeing the country’s intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons cache.
“I want you to know that probably there’s nobody else in this room better prepared to respond to the president’s order to use nuclear weapons,” Rowe told an audience in Anderson Auditorium. “I also want you to know that there’s probably nobody else in this room -- maybe in this country or in this world -- who works harder every day to be sure that that day never comes.”
Wilson said he didn’t want to deliver a speech on military deterrence. Instead, he quoted an excerpt of a speech his grandfather gave 64 years ago.
In World War II, Lt. Col. Ovid “Zero” Wilson survived the Bataan Death March. An estimated 78,000 Allied troops died in the Philippines on a brutal 60-mile trek through the jungle falling to the Japanese invaders. Wilson’s grandfather told his audience:
“I am one of the few Americans who has lost a war, who has seen an American army overrun, and defeated by a combination of starvation, sickness, unpreparedness and superior enemy forces, with the nearest reinforcements 7,000 miles of enemy-controlled ocean away,” Wilson said, reading the lines his grandfather delivered.
The late Col. Wilson summed up his speech with four things one needs to survive:
“We have air. We have food. We have water. We have hope. Ultimately, we have freedom. We live in a country that serves as the beacon of hope for all of mankind,” Wilson said.
Commander Wilson said prisoners of war died because of a lack of one of those necessities. He urged Americans to study history and appreciate freedoms that many other nations can only dream about.