by Tamara Wing
On Sunday, September 11, the recently established Riverbend Memorial held an awards ceremony in L&C’s Hatheway Cultural Center. The event, billed as “God in America Again,” raised over $4,000 for Riverbend Memorial’s charitable fund. On its website, the not-for-profit organization states that it was formed in early 2011 to “create a charitable and patriotic fund for Military, Police and Firefighters who have been injured or have fallen while serving our country and communities.”
As attendees found their seats in the auditorium on Sunday morning, stirring pictures from September 11, 2001 were projected onto the screen as an instrumental version of “My Country, Tis of Thee” ran on a loop. The Alton High School AFJROTC Color Guard had the distinguished role of presenting the colors, signaling the beginning of the main event. The program featured performances by Saved by Grace (a four-man a capella group reminiscent of a barbershop quartet) and Encounter (a choir accompanied by piano) and was emceed by Steve Jankowski, director of the Office of Alumni Affairs for SIUE and executive director of the SIUE Alumni Association.
The Honored Speaker of the event was retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. His address focused on the heroism and honor of those serving in the American military; Col. North defined a hero not as an athlete or someone wearing a cape, but as “a person who puts himself at risk for the benefit of others.” Col. North further stressed the responsibility parents have to instill such reverence in their children, saying, “A nation that doesn’t have heroes doesn’t have a future.”
Keeping with the “God in America Again” theme of the Riverbend Memorial event, Col. North peppered his address with quotes from the Bible and shared his impression that there are more Christians in the armed forces now than at any time in his career. He further claimed that “every one” of those currently enlisted was motivated to serve by his/her own sense of patriotism and desire to fight “this war against radical Islam”, a statement issued as a direct challenge to those in “the liberal media” who have supposedly insulted the troops by claiming that education, healthcare, and a steady paycheck are among the reasons today’s service members enlist.
Col. North wrapped up his speech by calling on the Riverbend Memorial organization and area residents to continue this legacy of hope. He then presented two $4,500 grants awarded by the Riverbend Memorial Grants Committee to family members of two area servicemen.
- The wife of Sergeant First Class Ronald “Aaron” Grider accepted a grant in her late husband’s name. SFC Grider, a 1998 Civic Memorial High School (Bethalto) graduate, was killed by machine gun fire on September 18, 2010, in Konduz Providence, Afghanistan, on his 30th birthday.
- The mother of Lance Corporal Stuart Heim accepted a grant on behalf of her daughter-in-law, in the name of her son. LCpl Heim, a 2007 Staunton High School graduate, was seriously wounded on June 30, 2011. His wife has quit her job to be with him throughout his recovery in the VA Hospital, Richmond, Virginia.
Col. North can be seen as a regular FOX News contributor and as host of the FOX News program, “War Stories”. More information about the Riverbend Memorial can be found online at www.riverbendmemorial.org.