Sen. McConnell honors veterans at dedication of Fallen Heroes Sculpture in Shelbyville

11/11/2015 04:40 PM

SHELBYVILLE — The names of 106 fallen soldiers who served in the four major conflicts of the 20th century were read aloud next to the Fallen Heroes Sculpture at Veteran’s Park in Shelbyville.

As leaves fell from the trees surrounding the monument and onlookers, the four veterans, including 99-year old former Gen. Ronald Van Stockum, stepped to the podium to read from a list of Shelbyville veterans who died serving their country.

Stockum was the first to read from his list of World War I vets to fight and die in combat. Stockum, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1937 to his retirement as a U.S. brigadier general in 1969, spoke of his father who died fighting in the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke of his parents, who retired to Shelbyville for the last decade of their lives.

McConnell’s father served in World War II in Germany as a scout following the Battle of the Bulge.

“I was always so proud of his decision to serve when he really didn’t have to,” McConnell said, explaining that his father was exempt from service. “That gave you a sense, I think, of the feeling that … in that war we felt like we were all in it together. And it was an enormous sense of shared sacrifice.”

McConnell also spoke of the Korean War, Vietnam and the most recent conflicts in the Middle East. As he has in the past, McConnell chided Obama for failing to leave a residual force in Iraq, but said it seems the president won’t “make the same mistake in Afghanistan.”

“There’s a big debate these days about whether America ought to play this sort of leadership role,” McConnell said. “But if not us, then who? Because the vacuum will be filled by someone.”

“Of course we hate wars and we don’t want to lose people, but the world is not a better place without American leadership — it isn’t,” McConnell continued. “And trouble will come to our shores anyway if we don’t lead.”

There are more than 300,000 veterans living in Kentucky.

McConnell also spoke about the need to do better for America’s veterans after troubling reports of scandals within the Department of Veterans Affairs. V.A. hospitals have seen long patient waits and mismanagement.

After the event, McConnell told Pure Politics that a bill passed last year to give patients choice could ease the troubles within the V.A.

“I’ll hope that will begin to shape up the V.A. which has been immersed in a whole lot of scandals and problems all over the country,” he said.


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