Christian Men's Breakfast

Presentation by Chuck Esposito

February 2, 2006

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"Tribute to Tom Wilburn"

Thank you I.T., and good morning gentlemen.

In my usual fashion, I wrote out what I wanted to say this morning, and I hope you’ll bear with me as I read it to you.

I suppose most of you know Tom Wilburn, who is sitting right over there . Give us a wave Tom. Tom is usually in someplace like Afghanistan or Iraq, and unable to attend these meetings, but I’m glad he is with us today, especially, because today is his birthday. In view of that, I’d like us to take a few minutes to celebrate his years of service to his country – which, as some of you know, was already officially and formally recognized by the military last July, when Tom was inducted to the Ranger Hall of Fame. He qualified for that honor based on his outstanding service; including, his exceptional valor under enemy fire. The Rangers, of course, are specially selected and well trained elite warriors, and Tom Wilburn ranks with the best of them. In addition to being inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame, Tom’s achievements in training are extraordinary, as evidenced by his successes in the annual “Best Ranger Competitions.” For those of you unfamiliar with that event, it is a grueling, 62 hour event that tests the physical and mental stamina as well as the tactical and technical skills of the competitors, who represent the best of the best. It takes place over four days, and covers 60 miles and 29 combat tasks with little time for sleep. Sometimes called the “Military Olympics,” it usually attracts top performers from the Army, Navy and Marines; and occasionally, from foreign military units. The event is so arduous, that some times, fewer than half the contestants finish. Over the years, Tom has competed several times, and has finished 11th, 4th, 2nd, and in his best performance, he finished first. Tom, we are all proud of you, and proud that you, Sherry, Sara and Melony, are a part of this community.

And now, I want to tell a short story about some other soldiers, in another time, and another war.

As you may know, hundreds of Confederate soldiers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, even though it is in Yankee territory and it is generally considered a Union cemetery.

All the Confederate soldiers are buried in concentric circles around a Monument, and their graves are marked with headstones that are distinct for their pointed tops. Legend attributes these pointed-top tombstones to a Confederate believe that the points would, "keep the Yankees from sitting on them."

But why is there a Confederate Memorial in Yankee land, at Arlington National Cemetery?

I think we can find the answer to that question in the words of Confederate Chaplain Randolph McKim, as inscribed on the base of that Confederate Monument:

“Not for fame, not for place or rank, not lured by ambition nor goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all...”

I believe the words Chaplain McKim wrote about Confederate troops, are equally applicable today to Tom, and the rest of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. .

Not applicable to politicians in Washington, but applicable to our troops on the ground in Afghanistan & Iraq.

Since the first shots were fired there, Two thousand two hundred and forty-seven Americans have died there, and more than 16K have been wounded. Paraphrasing Chaplain McKim:

“ not for fame, not for place or rank, not lured by ambition nor goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men, and women, suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all.”

… General Robert E. Lee provided the guidance for them a hundred and fifty years ago when he wrote:

“Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less." ....

Gentlemen, regardless of what you think of President Bush’s decision to go to war in Afghanistan & Iraq, the fact is that we have American men and women there in harm’s way, including Tom, and they deserve our prayers. I pray for them every day, and I would ask you to do the same.

Finally, - Tom, as you prepare to return to your duty, we pray you stay safe, we pray you stay strong, and we pray that you return safely home. In the words of WWII Chaplain James O'Neill, “May God grant you fair weather for battle, as you advance from victory to victory...”

Thank you for your service, … Happy Birthday, … and we look forward to seeing you back here soon.


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