Humility and lifelong service to the community was the theme for the Veterans Day speech delivered by Capt. Michael Tatsch (U.S. Navy, Ret.) on Saturday at the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Tatsch quoted President John F. Kennedy who said, …“Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers — for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”
Tatsch said that President Kennedy specifically mentioned humility, and he finished by saying “the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”
Focusing on these ideas, Tatsch relayed how he felt they apply to veterans.
“These aspects have always intrigued and impressed me about the veterans I’ve known growing up and as an adult — their humility, their desire to not utter words but to live them, and their lifelong commitment to service, even long after they hang up their uniforms.
“These men and women, who have so many incredible stories to tell, rarely tell them until they’re asked,” Tatsch said. “We have so many heroes among us, and oftentimes we don’t even know it.”
He said he learned at last month’s POW/MIA Recognition Day program that there are three former Prisoners of War living Fredericksburg.
“We are so blessed to live among humble, lifelong servants here, and I’d like to focus now on a few of these people who put their values into action by continuing to serve our community today,” he said.
Tatsch pointed to three humble lifelong servants — Gen. Michael Hagee (USMC, Ret.), Capt. George Fadok, (U.S. Navy, Ret.) and Lt. Commander Tami King (U.S. Navy, Ret.).
Gen. Michael Hagee
Tatsch served for 11 months as an aide to Gen. Hagee’s during his four years as 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps.
“That title alone describes an enormous responsibility, but I had a front-row seat to see it in execution, and I’d like to share some of that with you,” Tatsch said.
There were all the “normal” things one would expect, like sitting in the front row for the State of the Union address, Congressional testimony, and doing everything required to take care of the entire Marine Corps, both present-day and into the future.
“But the part we don’t see on TV or in the papers is what I want you to know,” Tatsch said. “This was 2005 and 2006, and his Marines were engaged in combat every day.”
Tatsch explained how Hagee held video teleconferences with his commanders in the field nearly every day, and traveled to Iraq every other month to speak face-to-face with those deployed Marines.
“On one of those trips, I watched as he took the time to talk privately with three Marines who had been in a firefight the night before, as their buddy was still being cared for in the medical tent,” Tatsch said.
Hagee also visited Quantico to speak with every new class of second lieutenants.
“These young lieutenants knew they were headed directly into combat, and he spoke frankly and honestly about his experiences as a young lieutenant fighting in Vietnam,” Tatsch said.
Hagee, he said, also made time every two weeks to drive across Washington to spend time with the wounded Marines and Navy Corpsmen in recovery at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
“My front-row seat to all this, showed me how Gen. Hagee made his fighting Marines and his youngest Marines his highest priority, a true example of humble service and leadership.
“And now, we’re blessed that he has continued his lifelong commitment to service, following 38 years in the Marine Corps by serving here at the National Museum of the Pacific War and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, ensuring that the story of Admiral Nimitz and the thousands that served with him in the Pacific War is preserved and shared for generations to come.”
Capt. George Fadok
Capt. Fadok is the Senior Naval Science Instructor for the Navy Junior ROTC unit at Fredericksburg High School.
Fadok completed a career as a Naval Flight Officer in the E-2 Hawkeye, where he provided airborne command and control for all of the aircraft carrier strike groups he deployed with, Tatsch said.
“He now continues to serve our community by leading over 100 cadets every year in the Battlin’ Billie ROTC unit,” Tatsch said.
The students can be seen around town as color guards for ceremonies and parades, supporting high school sporting events and by placing American flags around town on days like Veterans Day.
“But what we don’t see from George is again what I’d like to tell you about,” Tatsch said. “George is wholly committed to each and every one of his cadets — and he has over 100 of them.”
Tatsch said he served as the guest inspector for the NJROTC’s annual review.
“That day, I got to talk to each of his cadets, and I saw for myself the impact he is having,” Tatsch said. “These kids have aspirations that range from military careers like the Navy Nuclear Power Program, Navy SEAL, and Marine Corps infantryman, to civilian careers like teachers, doctors, and florists. He has varsity athletes, and he has special needs kids.”
“I can only imagine how challenging it might be to serve a group with that level of diversity, but George is incredibly successful because he cares so much about every single one of them, about helping every individual cadet reach his or her full potential,” Tatsch said.
After the inspection, Tatsch said that Fadok took him to meet another cadet who was spending the day in another building after getting into some trouble.
“He knew that it would be a big deal for this cadet to be inspected, that this cadet had worked hard on their uniform and their knowledge, and that this cadet needed something positive in their life, “ Tatsch said. “And George did what he could to make that happen.
“At the end of the day, I watched him get a little emotional speaking to the cadets, and it was crystal clear to me that he loves them all as if they were his own kids,” he said. “That’s the kind of humble, lifelong servant that he is.”
Lt. Commander Tami King
While Fadok is taking care of the youth, Lt. Commander King is taking care of the veterans and their surviving spouses as the Gillespie County Veterans Service Officer.
King had a 20-year Navy career that spanned the enlisted and the officer ranks, and for the last decade-plus she has served the county as the Veterans Service Officer.
“I was blown away when I learned how many people she serves — over 3,500,” Tatsch said.
Her job includes coordinating the efforts of nearly a dozen veterans’ organizations, reporting to the county commissioners on veterans issues and gathering and disseminating information to veterans regarding healthcare, news from the VA, local events, and anything else that the community can benefit from.
“But the ‘behind the scenes’ things that she does are again what I want you to know about, because she truly does go above and beyond the call of her duties,” Tatsch said.
Whether it’s going through a file box of old records for a veteran or coordinating rides to medical appointments, King gets the need filled, he said.
“Without Tami, many of these veterans’ needs would simply go unmet,” Tatsch said. “These are just two examples of the kinds of actions Tami performs daily with the smile of a cheerful servant, creating real, immediate and lasting impact in the lives of those she serves. She is a truly humble, lifelong servant.”
“I’ve talked today about three humble, lifelong servants right here in our community,” Tatsch said. “None of these three would have wanted me to talk about them today, but that’s precisely my point. They just want to serve, they’re humble, they don’t want the praise or recognition.
“I would ask that you recognize that these three citizens are representatives — they’re representatives of all of you veterans here with us today who continue to give back, and all of those humble, lifelong servants in our community, our state, and millions across our nation, who focus not on uttering words, but on living them,” he said.
“You, and they, are the reasons that our country will always be the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,” he said.
Saturday’s program opened with the posting of the colors by the FHS NJROTC and the Pledge of Allegiance led by NJROTC Cadet Juan Laredo.
A choir from Ambleside School sang the National Anthem and another musical selection.
Capt. Roger Spencer (U.S. Navy, Ret.) delivered the invocation and Joe Cavanaugh, director of the National Museum of the Pacific War, offered the welcome.
NJROTC Cadet Anne LaFleur presented the wreath, the Nimitz Living History Detachment did the rifle salute and Bill Smallwood sounded “Taps.”