Opening remarks made by John J. Hopkins at the Madison County Bar Association World War II Tribute Committee ceremony on Nov. 9:
World War II ended more than 60 years ago, a time when the vast majority of the members of the MCBA, indeed most of the now 300 million Americans, were not even on the earth. While the second world war seems so long ago, its place as the pivotal event of the 20th century cannot be denied.
For some it is but a historical footnote, for others a research passion. For still another group, it is a memory fresh as the dawn, as vivid as the sunset, seared in the memory by the crucible of fire, for they have borne the burden of its terrible weight, seen its terror in ways no book, no movie could ever hope to convey.
Today, in a long overdue moment of gratitude, the MCBA wishes to pay tribute to the members of the bar who served in combat during World War II.
Our service today, standing on the eve of those two most American of holidays--Veterans Day and Thanksgiving--is not intended to slight any other group of veterans of any other conflict, but rather to begin what hopefully will be an annual tradition of honoring all who have served so well. Today we begin with the members of the "Greatest Generation."
We honor 18 men today, lawyers and judges, varied in geography, background, termperament, age and legal careers, but joined together by a common experience of duty faithfully performed, then silently and humbly preserved.
Having flown the skies of Europe, battled in the sands of the desert and in the jungles of the Pacific, they knew the meaning of true courage, and could not therefore be intimidated by any judge, any opponent, or any situation.
They left as high school boys, students fresh out of college or in the middle of law school, or young lawyers temporarily placing their practices on hold, but returned to Madison County as seasoned veterans all, determined to make a differenece in all that they did, thankful for the chance to be home again.
They shared a bond of rarely, if at all, discussing their experiences, shunning the title of hero, medals notwithstanding, instead modestly defelecting praise as undeserved with the mantra that the "real heroes are the guys who did not come back."
Those of us without a military combat background cannot hope to understand the experiences of our honorees today. We can only hope to try and show our sincere appreciation.