Commander Brian D. Hackett wears the color red every Friday.
Friday was no exception as Hackett, who could easily be mistaken for Santa Claus, explained his reasoning at McDonald Elementary School’s annual Veterans Day ceremony.
“Fridays are meant to remember our men and women who are still serving in combat positions overseas,” he said. “If you take a look at the T-shirt I’m wearing, it’s to remember those who are in harm’s way so that you and I can gather in peace to remember our veterans. I want you to remember that we still have men and women serving overseas so that you and I can gather in peace here in this country.”
Hackett also talked about three other things that he wears on his body.
“I wear a cross because Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior,” he said. “I wear a wedding ring because I’ve been married to the same woman for 45 years. I wear this bracelet on my wrist of Capt. Samuel Larry James, of Chattanooga, who was shot down over Cambodia on April 18, 1973 during the Vietnam War. I have never taken this bracelet off except when I’ve had surgery. His remains still have not been returned. I will never, ever take this bracelet off. His name is still on the (Vietnam Memorial) Wall. We never want to forget those who have served in any war.”
Hackett said that there are two things veterans want from citizens.
“First is your prayers for our active duty personnel. We should pray for them each and every day,” Hackett said. “Then, if you can find someone on active duty, send them two things, socks and cookies. (If you do that), you’ll be their friend forever.”
Hackett’s family has served in every war since World War I.
“When you cut me open, I bleed red, white and blue,” Hackett said. “I thank all of you veterans for your service. The greatest thing that I did in my life was to enlist in the Air Force. It was the greatest decision I’ve made in my life. I’m 67 years old. There are only two greater decisions that I’ve ever made, to accept the Lord Jesus Christ into my life and to marry my wife. I’d do it all again.”
Hackett served in the U.S. Air Force and a graduate of the Air Force Office of Investigations, the Air Force Office Squadron Officers School, Air Force Social Action Staff Officers School and the University of North Carolina-Fayetteville. He has top security FBI security clearance and was a private investigator. He served in Vietnam and was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Manilla, Philippines, where he worked in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He received the National Defense Ribbon, Vietnam Service Ribbon, Air Force Overseas Long Term Ribbon, Air Force Overseas Short Term Ribbon, Longevity Ribbon, Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and a Certificate of Appreciation from President George H.W. Bush.
“Veterans Day is an opportunity for our school to take a moment and give thanks for all of the wonderful things we have, specifically our freedoms, and the service that the people have provided them have given,” McDonald Principal Dr. James Sharp said. “Each of these veterans have made a sacrifice. They sacrificed for you, me and every person in this country. The sacrifice they have made ensures your freedom. Veterans Day is a great opportunity to thank them, but let us not forget that it’s not the only time we should thank them. We should be thankful every day for the freedom of speech, freedom of religion and for all of the opportunities we are provided for their service.”
After Hackett’s speech, all veterans who were at the ceremony were called to the front and recognized with a token from the Veterans Day Club members.
An array of student speakers participated in the ceremony, including Maddox Garber, Laci Jordan, Hannah Kirk, Mason Dean, Alissa Lawson, Morgan Norris, Macy Greenlee, McKensie Morrison, and Camryn Warner.
Cheryl Dyson’s poem “Veterans Day” was recited by Claira Dickenson, Danielle West, Dejah Majors, Chelsie Taylor, Samantha Toth and Skylar Shelton.
Several musical numbers were performed by the McDonald School singers, including the National Anthem, “America the Beautiful,” “America,” and “On Veterans Day.” Brooke Ramsey Erin Thomas Donna Grubb and Jenny Harmon sang “Go Light Your World” and closed the ceremony with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”
Gary Graham played “Taps” and “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.
Breakfast was provided for veterans after the ceremony.