Cardinal Newman hosts annual breakfast for veterans

COLUMBIA — For its fourth year, Cardinal Newman School has honored the military with a Veterans Breakfast for Veterans Day. The event, sponsored by the Fort Jackson Credit Union and the 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, was held Nov. 12 in the school cafeteria. With the assistance of army dining facility personnel, the school served breakfast to approximately 200 people in rotating shifts.

Parents and grandparents who served in the military had the opportunity to share a meal and some war stories with their Cardinal Newman students. In addition, the 282nd Army Victory Band serenaded the group with military marches and uplifting music, concluding with a military medley and “Taps.”

A highlight of this year’s breakfast was the televising of the event on Columbia station WLTX Channel 19’s morning show. Anchor Curtis Wilson, who was formerly in the military, interviewed military personnel and the school’s principal, teachers and students.

Major Tim Washington, a Cardinal Newman graduate, was one of many people who helped organize the perfectly executed event. Washington is also the assistant junior varsity football coach for Cardinal Newman.

“It is extremely important for our children to understand the sacrifices you have made and the sacrifices of others who lost their lives protecting this country,” Principal Jim McIntyre told the honorees. “If they do not know history, they risk repeating it.”

Lt. Col. Dean Pennington, an experienced F-16 fighter pilot, shared a few war stories with his daughter Ashley. During Desert Storm’s first air mission, he said, about 70 missiles were shot at his plane. He was glad that in spite of the fierce attack, everyone in his squadron made it back home. He also has participated in the more recent campaigns in the Middle East.

Gilian Dely brought his grandfather, Edward Williams, who was in the Army Medical Corps working in a M.A.S.H. unit during the Korean War. Williams recalled treating many Koreans and wondering why their lives could not be saved if they had made up their minds to die.

Dr. Howard Gilchrist, a war veteran who flew the B-29 in World War II, came to the breakfast with his granddaughter, Emma Owens. He talked about some of his adventures while flying his dangerous missions over Japan. Gilchrist’s plane shared the same airfield as the planes that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan.

“We were not told anything concerning those planes except that they were on a top-secret mission,” said Gilchrist. The young Owens had no idea of the dangers involved in her grandfather’s bombing missions and that he had been shot at so many times.

After breakfast, Lt. Col. William W. Wood, commander, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment at Fort Jackson, introduced his “personal hero,” 1st Lt. Jason W. Greenan, who was the keynote speaker for the event.

In fast motion, Greenan, who was directly in charge of the welfare of 170 men during Operation Iraqi Freedom, walked the audience through his 1,800-kilometer journey to Baghdad, describing how he would sometimes see the sun set two or three times before he rested. Greenan’s unit was called the “tip of the arrow” since it was their job to pave the way for all main combat forces into Baghdad.

“The sacrifices were not any different than past battles. The stress and pain is the same, but you know how important your job really is when people offer you the only things they have in the world as a way to say thanks,” said Greenan, who is currently the executive officer of the Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment.

Those who prayed for the safety of his unit had their prayers answered because everyone in Greenan’s platoon returned home alive. He said that there were several close calls, but he never dwelled on them. During one of the battles, two surface-to-land missiles went off between his Bradley (fighting vehicle) and another Bradley, missing them both by inches. During that same attack, a missile exploded, sending shrapnel toward the exposed troops. The shrapnel hit the men’s vests, not their bodies.

“We gather here today to honor those who gave — some who gave all they had — to defend all nations,” concluded the army officer, who believes the military’s values of loyalty, personal service, honor, and respect are values worth the fight.