Maj. Gen. Larry Harrington speaks during a fundraiser for the Fallen Warriors Memorial in Morgan City Thursday.
(The Daily Review Photo by Preston Gill)
Americans have an obligation to recall the valor and sacrifice of those who gave their lives for freedom and resist the apathy toward veterans that has enveloped the country, the man who led Mississippi’s fight to recover after Katrina said in a speech at the Morgan City Petroleum Club Thursday night.
Maj. Gen. Larry Harrington was invited by Fallen Warriors Memorial organizer Marc Distefano to address nearly 300 people at a $50-a-plate fundraiser for the memorial. Harrington has served as the Assistant Adjutant General of Mississippi and commanded Task Force Engineer during Hurricane Katrina operations.
“Memorial Day is more than just coming to speeches,” Harington said of Monday’s national holiday of remembrance for fallen soldiers. “I believe it is one of the most important holidays this country has.”
The U.S. military is the finest in the world in strength and character, Harrington said. But, with less than 1 percent of the population in the military, people have begun to view the military with less relevance in their lives — a view that has led to apathy toward Memorial Day and to the honoring of veterans, he said.
The career soldier recalled friends and fellow servicemen who had died under his command.
“I bring up these personal tragedies … because they were proud of what they were doing, proud of what they were,” Harrington said. “They did it for their family, their friends and their country.”
Families who lose a loved one in service to the country have great pride, but also have fear, Harrington said.
“They are proud that their loved one sacrificed so much,” he said. “But, they fear they will be forgotten.”
Harrington called the issues surrounding health care for veterans a “scandal” and an “atrocity.” The failure to provide timely health care for veterans is another example of apathy regarding veterans and their service and sacrifices, he said.
Harrington has a claim that has been unaddressed by the Veterans Administration for four years, he said.
The families of veterans have sacrificed by giving up their sons and daughters to the service of the country, Harrington said. That includes families in Morgan City and surrounding areas which appear to have had a higher than average number of soldiers die, he said.
“We have to take care of our fallen heroes,” Harrington said. “We must fight for our veterans and their families.”
The erection of a Fallen Warriors Memorial in Morgan City is an excellent way of permanently memorializing the sacrifice veterans have made, Harrington said.
Before his speech Harrington gave Distefano a “commander’s coin” for his “special accomplishments” in driving the effort to get the memorial built.
“You are well on your way” to getting the memorial built, Harrington said. “I am proud of what you are doing.”
Under Harrington’s command Task Force Engineer was instrumental in stabilizing conditions in South Mississippi to begin the rebuilding of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As commander of Task Force Storm, he deployed the joint brigade task force to Afghanistan providing essential counterinsurgency in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, a biography of the general stated.
Harrington said the day he took command of the recovery effort in Mississippi there were 4,000 soldiers from 27 states in formation ready to help rebuild the communities. Of that number 426 were standing in formation who themselves had their homes damaged.