Service, Sacrifice, and Courage by Brian Nowlin

As published in The Kenbridge Victoria Daily, Wed. May 30, 2012

Monday was a daylong celebration at Lunenburg Courthouse as hundreds of local citizens and visitors from Virginia and beyond turned out on Memorial Day. The event was kicked off by a Memorial Day service in the courthouse that was called, “Remembrance and Celebration.” While there were several other events during this day at the location, this first event truly was a service dedicated to the meaning of Memorial Day. As is traditional in many of the Memorial Day celebrations throughout the country, there was a prayer given to the many people that have served and also to the many that sacrificed their life for the United States through military service. The many men and women that are currently serving our country were also recognized during the moving invocation.

This was followed by the presentation of the United States Flag by the Central JROTC Color Guard and the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” as well as the “Pledge of Allegiance,” by a courtroom of attendees that completely filled the venue. Mr. Terry Pasco then asked everyone to take a look at an insert in the program everyone received when entering the courthouse. That insert contained names of “Lunenburg Heroes” who have served and are currently serving in the armed services throughout the years of peace times and through many wars.

The guest speaker during this event was Rear Admiral Frank F. Rennie, IV USN (Ret). Many readers have heard the name Frank Rennie before as he serves as the county attorney for Lunenburg, but most people probably didn’t realize the illustrious military career that Mr. Rennie had. He graduated from Douglas Freeman High School in the Richmond area and then attended the United States Naval Academy where he was not only a standout in the classroom, but also played football for legendary coach, George Welsh. After graduating in 1976, Mr. Rennie would serve five years of active duty before returning to law school at the University of Richmond. While practicing law for the past 29 years, Mr. Rennie has been a part of a significant number of prestigious and important positions in the United States Navy. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., Mr. Rennie spent time working with counter terrorism groups in Italy. In addition to that, he was head of security operations for the United States during the Olympic games in Greece. Mr. Rennie officially retired in October 2010 as a Two Star Rear Admiral and now practices law full time.

During his speech to the audience, Mr. Rennie stated, “Many people think of Memorial Day as a holiday celebrating the beginning of summer.” He would continue on and remind everyone to take time each year to think of the true meaning of Memorial Day and to honor the noble cause that so many people have undertaken over the last 200 years in protection of our country.

The speech would then focus on three main points that were highlighted through a series of stories and experiences that Mr. Rennie would share. The three points were service, sacrifice and courage.

In highlighting the service of people in the military, Mr. Rennie spoke about many of the people he had met throughout his military career and how they had served numerous different positions ranging from soldiers on the front lines of battle to medics. He also spoke of funerals he attended for military personnel and that he would often times reflect on the fact that these individuals were not heroes because they had been killed in service to the country, but the most heroic thing they did was the day they signed up to be of service to the country knowing that they would quite possibly have to put their life on the line during that time.

Sacrifice was the second highlighted point of the speech and this extended not only to the military personnel that protect our country, but also to the wives and family members of these people that sacrifice years of being together. Mr. Rennie named several examples of ordinary people, including a neighbor who left his wife for five years to help his country. Mr. Rennie remembered that during that time, both the neighbor and the wife accepted the idea that they were just part of the overall group of Americans who make sacrifices in order to keep the United States free.

Finally, Mr. Rennie discussed the word Courage. He would discuss a man named Desmond Doss, who objected to killing because of his religious beliefs but was still able to win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic acts as a medic in the United States Army during the Battle of Okinawa. While under heavy attack, Doss saved 75 wounded United States soldiers. During the presentation, President Truman said that it was his greatest honor to present that medal to man of such courage.

Mr. Rennie would wrap up his speech by talking about how the United States Military is made up of ordinary people that do extraordinary things. He would close by stating, “God bless you Lunenburg and God bless the United States of America.”