"I want to thank each and every one who has served our nation in uniform," said Lumpkin, keynote speaker for the Veterans Day Ceremony held Friday morning at the Sikeston Field House. "America is a better place because of their service."
"Since Nov. 11, 2004, we have experienced more painful losses in our fight against terrorism," said Blair Moran, chaplain of Sikeston American Legion Post 114.
Recalling the history of the Gold Star Mothers organization, Moran noted the loss of Army Spc. Blake Wade Hall, son of Glen and Vickie Hall of East Prairie, who died Aug. 21 in Afghanistan, "and we salute him for his service and sacrifice."
Those gathered offered a standing applause for the Halls after Moran asked them to stand and recognized Mrs. Hall as a Gold Star Mother.
"Although I have only been in Sikeston for a short time, one thing I can say for certain: This is the America I proudly serve," Lumpkin said.
While the displays at Veterans Park are impressive, "they are merely hunks of metal," he said. "It's what they symbolize that we need to focus on."
Veterans are as patriotic as the founding fathers who "openly committed treason against the British crown in the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," according to Lumpkin.
This required a "special brand of patriotism," he said, and a special breed of Americans "willing to give their life, their liberty, and put on hold their pursuit of happiness in order to guarantee the inalienable rights of their fellow citizens."
"The ultimate sacrifice" was also addressed by Lumpkin: "If someone buys your life with the price of their life, don't you dare waste it. Many have done just that so we have the freedom to gather here today."
Our military take the fight to the enemy so the fight isn't brought to our shores, Lumpkin said. "My father-in-law left the United States in 1942 to fight the Nazis in Europe and did not return home until 1946. Trust me - he would have had it no other way," he said. American blood has been spilled in places all over the world, Lumpkin said, "and most recently in Khandahar and Fallujah ... all in the name of freedom."
Relating how difficult SEAL training is, Lumpkin said he has seen world-class athletes drop out and unlikely-looking teenagers push through. "It's all about the man and what makes him tick," he said.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Navy SEALs have received two Navy Crosses, 30 Silver Stars and several hundred Bronze Stars for heroism in combat - a significant number considering the force consists of only 2,000 men. Also during this time, 16 of Lumpkin's teammates have been killed and 47 wounded. "Each loss has had a deep and lasting impact on the SEAL family, yet re-enlistment rates have never been higher," he said.
Lumpkin also shared several recent examples of Navy SEAL heroism before wrapping up his remarks by citing an analogy in which 98 percent of people are sheep who "go on about their daily lives engrossed in their world, doing their thing, with only marginal concern for what transpires around them."
Another 1 percent are wolves that prey on these sheep. "Terror and havoc are their trades and they personify evil," Lumpkin said. "They would eat all the defenseless sheep and use their bones for toothpicks if left unchecked. The sheep would be at their mercy if it were not for the final group."
This final group are "sheepdogs," he said. "They are the protectors of the flock." They are not always appreciated, require lots of food and constant upkeep, but "when there are wolves around, the sheep expect the sheepdogs to be there and protect - defensively at first, but then to go to the wolves' den to ensure they do not come back."
Yesterday it was fascists and communists; today it is Islamic fundamentalists, he said. "I have had the opportunity to look into our enemies' eyes and trust me when I say they will not stop until they kill you, kill me and kill everyone we love. Like previous veterans, our resolve is steadfast and will not rest until the wolves are no longer a threat."
"The sheepdogs are not just in the military - those that put on a uniform to protect our streets should also be recognized this day," Lumpkin added. "I see the military and police as brothers in arms with a common goal."
The ceremony began with the posting of colors by the Sikeston National Guard unit followed by the National Anthem by the Sikeston High School band, choir and orchestra.
Mike Watson, commander of the Sikeston VFW Post 3174, led the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer of remembrance was offered by Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Beam, U.S. Navy Reserve (retired).
Patriotic music followed remarks by Lumpkin after which Harry Sharp presented a donation from the United Methodist Church for a new flag at the Sikeston Complex.
The ceremony ended with the ceremonial removal of the POW/MIA flag and Echo Taps.