Just prior to newspaperman and author Sam Hatcher, a retired US Army colonel, taking the podium, the MJCA band and choir performed a choreographed medley of patriotic songs that compelled the entire auditorium to its feet.
For more than 45 years, Hatcher was a newspaper publisher and journalist in Wilson County. During the majority of that time, he also served with the Tennessee National Guard. He is a past president of the Tennessee Press Association, as well as a past member of the Associated Press board of directors for Tennessee.
Hatcher was a U.S. Army National Guard public affairs officer from 1971-2005 working out of Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. He also served as chair of the U.S. Army National Guard Communications Board before retiring with the rank of full colonel in 2005.
He reminded the crowd there was a spiritual umbrella eclipsing the pettiness of current-day politics.
“I think today is a special Veterans Day for our nation,” Hatcher told the packed auditorium at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. “Our nation has been so divided in the last several months over this crazy election. I think Veterans Day is a reminder to all of us that we are indeed one nation under God.”
What was formerly known as “Armistice Day” and meant to celebrate veterans from World War I, Hatcher told the crowd it turned into Veterans Day after World War II when it became clear that one day a year would be needed to honor all veterans in all wars.
The retired colonel referenced the now-famous “Christmas Truce” during World War I when British and German soldiers stepped out of the trenches on Christmas Eve in 1914 and exchanged small gifts, ultimately ending in both sides singing Christmas carols.
“This story fascinates me, and I will tell you what fascinates me about it is, if this could happen in war, why can’t this happen all the time?” Hatcher asked. “They did this from a period from Christmas Eve all the way to New Year’s Day.”
The irony, said Hatcher, is not lost on anyone who reads about the historic and unofficial truce that ultimately would have to come to an end.
For the life of me, I cannot understand how on Jan. 2, they went right back to shooting each other and killing each other.” Hatcher said. “How can we go and fight in battle and be at war when really we all want to be is at peace in our own hearts.”
Hatcher is the author of “Heisman’s First Trophy” an homage to the 100th anniversary of Cumberland University’s astounding 222-0 loss to legendary coach John Heisman’s Georgia Tech team. That game in 1916 would be known as the game that launched football in the South. The anniversary was Oct. 7.
Mt. Juliet Christian Academy brought in Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Rhett Walker with the Rhett Walker Band to wrap up the day’s events. The band, a blend of Southern rock and country, has become known for writing about faith, family and country.
“Right now while we are here, there are men and women laying their lives on the line so we can have the freedom to have this Veterans Day celebration here in America,” Walker told the crowd.
“I think one of the amazing things is to celebrate and then to bring it full circle back to the one who laid his life down for us so we could have eternal life and so we could have peace.”