Georgia Army National Guard leader speaks at Southland

Published 5:45 pm Monday, November 14, 2016


AMERICUS — A large crowd of local and area veterans and their family members attended the annual Veterans Day program hosted by the Lower School of Southland Academy on Thursday.
The solemn, yet uplifting event was observed as a time to thank all veterans for their service to our country and for defending our freedoms.
Amidst the pomp and circumstance, the drums and brass, the red, white, and blue, and young students proudly waving miniature American flags, the veterans in attendance seemed touched to be recognized and to be thanked.
Keynote speaker was Brigadier General Thomas Carden Jr., Assistant Adjutant General, Army, Georgia Department of Defense, and Commander, Georgia Army National Guard. Carden began his military career in 1986, by enlisting in the Georgia Army National Guard as an Infantryman. And so began his decades of advancement in the ranks as he served both here and in Bosnia, and Iraq, earning decorations along the way.
Carden is the epitome of the military leader, and is humble and thankful for his career. He is also very patriotic and was “fired up” by the program at Southland Academy.
He said that the students, in their display of patriotism, illustrate “what is right and what is good about our nation.” He complimented the faculty and staff for their part in organizing the event with dignity, respect, and professionalism. “It just fires me up,” he said from the podium.

The students seemed to enjoy waving their American flags and singing patriotic songs at Southland Academy’s  annual Salute to Veterans held Thursday.  Read more about the program and see more photos in Wednesday’s edition, along with other local veterans’ events news.

The students seemed to enjoy waving their American flags and singing patriotic songs at Southland Academy’s annual Salute to Veterans held Thursday. Read more about the program and see more photos in Wednesday’s edition, along with other local veterans’ events news.

He also hailed the importance of the school in the community, state and nation.
“The character education that we’re seeing at this very moment is a testament to this leadership factory,” he said. “After 31 years in the military, I like leadership factories … My definition of a leadership factory is an institution that enables its people to reach their full potential …”
“Veterans Day is not only important for those of who served our nation, it’s important to our country,” he said, giving a brief history of the observance as a day set aside each year for all of us to say “thank you” to all of those who served in our armed forces. He asked for all the veterans in attendance to stand. They ranged from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Recognizing the veterans, Carden said, “Take a look at these great Americans. They stepped up when the nation called them, in war and in peace, and they signed a blank check to give everything up including their very lives, for freedom, liberty, and justice for all.”
Carden asked that everyone know and appreciate the gift of freedom. He related a story about his visit to a place near the southern border of Russia where he visited in the home of a foreign director of Homeland Security. Carden and a few others were invited to dinner, but before they sat down to eat, the host’s nine-year-old son Alexander sat at the family piano, without sheet music, and played the American National Anthem.
“I think Alexander knows that America is not perfect,” Carden said, “but at nine years old and living on the other side of the world, Alexander knows that America is the lighthouse for freedom.”
Carden issued some challenges to the Lower School students. He said the kids are “special” and have a “special opportunity at Southland. Our Army has what we call the Warrior Ethos:
• Always place the mission first. “Your mission here is to get an education and be a good team member.
• Never quit. “Don’t ever quit working if you have a weakness. You’ll get better if you apply your very best effort.”
• Never accept defeat. He related a story of when he learned this lesson 31 years ago on the football field at Southland Academy. He played for Terrell Academy. The Southland Raiders were ahead in the fourth quarter 46-3. He said they were tired, and he walked to the line scrimmage instead of running as he has been instructed to do and trained by his coach. The coach called a time out to correct Carden’s behavior. The coach told Carden  that he would  run to the line regardless of the score or he would spend the rest of the season on the bench. “It was a life lesson that I will never forget,” Carden said. “Never, ever accept defeat. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to win every time, but it means you’re going to shift the odds in your favor for long-term success and victory.”
• Never leave a fallen comrade. Carden said the students might know of fellow student struggling in an area of study that they themselves master. “A helping hand to your teammate — not during a test — shows that you care about others and that you’re willing to be a part of something larger than yourself.”
Quoting Mark Twain, Carden said the two most important days of a person’s life are the day they are born and the day they determine why they were born. “Events like this and institutions like this help our young men and women to build our nation, to find their way. Open your heart; open your mind, and give the best you have to offer every single day.”
Carden said that the veterans gathered there understood the ethos and “I suspect that many of them agree that in many ways they were not only born to experience and enjoy freedom, but to defend it no matter the cost or personal sacrifice.”