One of my favorite things about West Virginia is how much pride we, as a state, take in our men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.
As we celebrated Veterans Day this week, I thought deeply about the sacrifice that so many of these people have made, and how much gratitude I personally have for each and every one of them.
President Ronald Reagan once remarked, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Veterans do the hard work to protect our freedoms and preserve our heritage of democracy. Reagan’s words are never more true than today. We as a nation may be war weary, but the threats to our freedom and the quality of life we value have never been higher. Our freedoms are paid for in time, sacrifice, injury and sadly death by the men and women we must always honor — our veterans.
Over the weekend, I had the privilege of honoring one very special veteran in my home county, World War II veteran Chief Petty Officer Jake Forest Hatcher. When I read what Mr. Hatcher has accomplished in his 98 years of life, I was amazed.
While he was still a senior in high school, Mr. Hatcher joined the Army. He went on to enlist in the Navy in 1940, where he served for 30 years. During that time, he served active duty during both World War II and the Korean War. While he was aboard the the USS Stanley, it was attacked by a Japanese suicide bomber. In addition to the numerous medals and accommodations he’s earned, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy awarded him the Presidential Unit Citation in 1994 for his service.
All said, Mr. Hatcher dedicated 30 years to protecting our country and fighting for our freedoms. After his distinguished career, his calling to service didn’t end. He returned home to Princeton and found new ways to serve his community as the director of the Mercer County Department of Welfare and a trustee for the Princeton Salvation of Army. As part of his service to the charity, he put his artistic talents to use. He painted rocket pins that the charity was able to sell — more than 10,000 in all. This effort may have given Mr. Hatcher the nickname “Rocket Man.”
I was able to personally thank that local hero this week. It’s an experience I will never forget.
Heroes are people who give of themselves in service to others. They don’t do it for recognition. They do it out of a responsibility to act. Throughout his long and active life, Mr. Hatcher has always given of his time and talents in service to others.
I think we all should heed the lesson of this veteran’s life and embrace his service by thanking the men and women who have served, and who continue to serve at home and abroad every day.
Senate President Bill Cole represents West Virginia’s 6th District.