Rally celebrates veterans, God

Posted: Tuesday, July 01, 2003

"The greatest threat that faces us as a nation is not al-Qaida. It's not nukes in North Korea, not Iran, not the potential for terrorism in our own country," said retired Army chaplain Col. John W. Schumacher. "The greatest threat that faces us as a nation is the moral decay of our own country."

Schumacher, who spent 30 years in the Army, including two tours of Vietnam, a four-year stint at Alaska's Fort Richardson and a post as an ethics teacher at the Army's war college, delivered the keynote address Sunday at the 12th annual Happy Birthday America God and Country Rally at Kenai Central High School.

The annual event is sponsored by a collaboration of area churches and veterans groups in an effort to honor all military veterans and thank God for his blessings on the United States.

Prior to Schumacher's speech, Pastor Dean Nichols offered prayers asking God's continued blessing on the United States and honoring the veterans in the community.

"We ask that you would help us in some small way as we show our respect for the veterans who have helped us keep freedom," he said. "But mostly we're here to thank you for freedom in Jesus Christ."

Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a group of Young Marines carried in the Color Guard, as Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley led the red, white and blue-attired crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Sheila Bierdeman, Kayla Fell and Mary Nichols presented the national anthem.

Youngster Selia Butler dazzled and inspired the crowd with a dramatic rendition of Henry Wads-worth Longfellow's epic poem, "Paul Revere's Ride."

Then, veterans of the various military branches were asked to stand as their anthems were played.

Schumacher also took his opportunity to honor veterans in the audience, especially those from the Vietnam War. But, he had a larger purpose as well. Schumacher issued his warning of the "moral decay" of society to the crowd of about 200 people and called for a revival of values in the United States.

"We are playing a dangerous game with our obsession and I don't think obsession is too strong a word our obsession with ignoring our spiritual roots," he said.

Schumacher quoted not only the nation's founding fathers, but also French writer Alexis deTocqueville in an effort to prove the Christian heritage of the country.

"Gen. (George) Washington was a man of deep moral faith," he said. "James Madison staked the future of the country on the 10 Commandments. He wanted them hanging in schools and public buildings.

"Abraham Lincoln said, 'We have forgotten God.'"

And, Schumacher said, in "Democracy in America," deToc-queville touted the role of Christianity in U.S. democracy, writing, "I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion for who can search the human heart? but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions."

"Where have we come?" Schumacher asked. "We're certainly far removed from our founding fathers."

He said the permissiveness of society and the efforts of the court system to do away with Christian tradition in American culture would be the downfall of the country.

"So we find out we're no longer a nation under God. In 250 years, we've forgotten the foundation on which the country was built," he said. "The courts that once legislated against immorality have granted every man the ability to do what is right in his eyes."

He called for the crowd to take the first step in reversing the trend of godlessness in American culture.

"My longing tonight is to try to rekindle the fire in our hearts, to reembrace the principles that brought us to this place," he said. "It starts with people like us recommitting to the fundamentals. Then we will be in attack mode against our greatest threat."

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