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Wardynski: Storm clouds are gathering

·4 min read

May 31—Retired U.S. Army officer Casey Wardynski said American military forces must stay strong because the threat from foreign enemies continues, but he's confident the nation will remain prepared.

Wardynski, a retired colonel who is a former assistant secretary of the Army under President Donald Trump, discussed the nation's security after speaking at Decatur's annual Memorial Day ceremony at Roselawn Cemetery. About 200 people attended the event Monday.

"The Americans paying attention know the storm clouds are gathering again," Wardynski, a former professor at West Point Military Academy, where he also graduated, said after the program. "They will remember their military because their military won't let them down. Chinese are gathering their forces. Other evildoers, Iran, North Korea are gathering their forces.

"I was in the Pentagon. I was privy to all these plans. Every day I went to work, I knew why I was going to work. Americans have a pretty good sense of danger. The veterans will be here, of course. Young people will do their duty, and Americans will thank them on Veterans Day and Memorial Day as they always have."

He said despite the uncertainty over what type of global conflicts unfold in the future, "We can handle these guys. No draft is necessary."

The 35-year veteran told the crowd in the bright sunshine that Monday's celebration came on a special holiday, "probably the most important holiday in my life."

"It is a beautiful day to celebrate those heroes. A memory of those who paid the ultimate price so we may enjoy the bounties of freedom and prosperity secured by their sacrifice," he said. "We're a nation of free individuals who share a common bond. Unlike other peoples and nations, we honor them by protecting and sustaining these beliefs for future generations.

"Those remembered today also died to protect and sustain a system of government that draws its leaders from the people, draws its legitimacy from the people and is charged to act for the people within the limits people prescribe."

He said since the birth of the United States in 1776, 550 million people have called themselves Americans and about 8% of those have served in the military with 1.2 million of those dying on battlefields at home and around the world.

"These 1.2 million represent two-tenths of 1% of all Americans. They placed all at risk, their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor to defend this nation. At Lexington and Concord, their fight began as a struggle that continues today to create a union of sovereign states. ... Do your part to honor their sacrifice in realization that freedom is never free."

Wardynski, of Huntsville, also is a Republican candidate for the 5th Congressional District. He is in a runoff for the GOP nomination on June 21 with Dale Strong, also of Madison County.

During Monday's program, a Gold Star mother, Donna Smith, and four Blue Star mothers placed wreaths at the chairs honoring the five military branches. Smith's son, Lance Cpl. Jonathan Smith, was killed on June 6, 2005, in Iraq. He was 22.

A roll call of 238 Morgan County military veterans who have died in the past year was read during the ceremony, Lynn Easterwood, commander of the Combined Patriotic Organizations of Morgan County, said.

State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said remembering our veterans who have passed is "beyond important."

"It's imperative that we continue to remember these heroes. There is no other option," he said after the ceremony.

Jeannie Ryan, VFW Post 4190 commander, who introduced Wardynski, said Morgan County "is uniquely blessed to have an annual event to honor the loss and sacrifice the veterans have made for our freedom."

Larry Wilson of the Marine Corps League 1427 of Morgan County recognized the veterans in the crowd, and the Austin High JROTC color guard presented the colors. Disabled American Veterans Chapter 11 Commander John Johnson delivered the invocation and benediction.

Retired Army Master Sgt. Donna Johnson sang the national anthem and "God Bless America." The American Legion Post 15 Riders presented a flag line and the Legion provided the honor guard for a volley salute and playing of taps.

mike.wetzel@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.