Governor Hutchinson’s weekly radio address: Thank you for our veterans
LITTLE STONE – November 11 is the day we stop each year to honor surviving veterans who have served the United States in a branch of our armed forces.
This year we have nearly 203,000 military veterans in Arkansas; 51,000 of them have served since September 11; 35,000 served in the Gulf War; 41,000 served in peacetime; 64,000 served in the Vietnam War; and 8,000 served during the Korean conflict.
During World War II, 195,000 Arkansas served, which represented about 10% of Arkansas’ population in 1940. More than 3,500 Arkansans were killed. Two thousand eight hundred and two (2,802) of our veterans are still alive from World War II.
Ernest Ennis is one of those veterans. Ernest, who celebrated his 99th birthday on Thursday, fought in the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945. Military historians consider this battle to be one of the costliest in US history.
Ernest joined the US Army Infantry in September 1943 and was a radio operator. He was deployed to England in the fall of 1944.
In mid-December of the same year, as the Germans launched a massive assault on American and British troops in the forest of the Belgian Ardennes, Ernest and his comrades were fighting on snow-covered ground in sub-zero temperatures. From the front line, Ernest radioed German movements to headquarters.
For a week during the battle, Ernest and the soldier in the foxhole next to him survived with a can of beans between them. Ernest was watching when his friend lifted his head from the burrow, and a German bullet killed him.
Winston Churchill described the Battle of the Bulge as “without doubt the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever famous American victory”.
Louis Strickland was another WWII veteran from Arkansas who fought in one of our major battles. Louis landed in Normandy in 1944. Louis passed away in June of this year, shortly after his 101st birthday, a grim reminder that the number of our older generation veterans is dwindling.
This year’s ceremony in honor of our veterans will take place next Thursday at 10 a.m. at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. Senator John Boozman and Colonel Angela Ochoa, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, will speak.
Arkansas has 200,000 veterans. I join 3 million Arkansans in thanking you.