Two things remained customary with the annual event – each veteran received a hat recognizing his or her service, and the event featured a guest speaker. This year’s guest speaker was Wilson County Circuit Court Judge John D. Wootten.
Wootten retired as a colonel in 2004 from the Tennessee Air National Guard. His military career, including active duty, reserve duty and service, started in 1978.
Wootten’s last duty assignment was staff judge advocate at headquarters of Tennessee Air National Guard, the ranking attorney in the state air guard.
Wootten delivered a message of pride and respect for all military veterans regardless of the conflict they served during or their rank.
“Each of you served under the flag, carried the flag and yes, even today, you stand for the flag,” Wootten said. “For over 25 years, I proudly wore the uniform of a United States Air Force officer, but even as I look across this room, I must confess that I feel somewhat inadequate, because I did not face the dangers and perils that so many of you in this room faced.”
Wootten said for the last few years of his service, he worked directly for a two-star general.
“He had a saying. He said, ‘Rank is not about royalty; it is about responsibility.’ Well, today, I have a responsibility to salute you,” Wootten said.
Wootten said veterans are more than “passengers of the republic” and have left their mark on society by defending the country and world’s freedoms. He said forgetting the sacrifices people have made and neglecting to have defenders of freedom put the country at risk.
“I truly salute you all who have worn the uniform of the United States. You understand this first requisite of citizenship – this first requisite of this republic – that you cannot be a mere passenger of this republic,” Wootten said. “You have a continuing obligation, and that is to instill in the younger generation that sense of purpose and sense of duty. You have to instill in them that they cannot be a mere passenger of this republic.”