A large crowd turned out for a special Veteran's Day recognition program at the courthouse Saturday morning.
The special guest speaker for the occasion was Colonel Thomas Lippart of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Lippart, who has served three tours of duty in Iraq, said the strength of this nation is not in it's weapons, but in it's people. \" This nation is built on it's people. It's not the technology. The United States has always been known for it's great technology but that's not what makes our military great. There's lots of other countries out there that have a lot of technology. It's the people who make us such a powerful nation to deal with.\"
Colonel Lippart said while many still question whether the United States military should be in Iraq, most still support the troops. \"I still believe firmly in my heart that the American people by and large support it's military and are in fact there for us and stand behind us. I returned from Iraq on September 2nd and I've had many people come up to me and say thank you for your service and for what you have done.\"
While most of the news coming out of Iraq seems to be bad, Colonel Lippart said there are a lot of good things happening there too. \"When we first got to Iraq, obviously we had not established a relationship with the local vendor base and were still coming back to the states for most of the supplies we were buying. But the longer we are there, the more we are growing the local economy back. We're starting to do more and more business with the local economy. In fiscal year 2006, our contracting command did about 27,000 contracts and just about half of those were with Iraqi vendors but that's increasing every day. It increased by about 25% when I first got there to nearly 50% when I left, so we're doing more and more business with the economy, with the local businessmen to try to build their economy.\"
Colonel Lippart gave some examples of how the Iraqi people have benefitted from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. \" On many occasions, some of these Iraqi people, because I was a point of contact, held me responsible for some of the wonderful things that have been happening to them. They were so gracious and so thankful for us being in Iraq and helping them with the good things. I heard stories of how none of the power generation plants and none of the sewage treatment plants had any kind of repairs, modifications, or updates since they were built in the late 1950's and early 1960's. The entire country was in disrepair. There's a small suburb of Baghdad where, only as recent as about eight months ago, did we finally get the power generators fixed so that we could get the pumps running to pump the sewage out of the city. There was six inches of sewage running through about a one mile square city area. Imagine your children having to walk through that on their way to school. Because of our engineers, technology and our assistance to show them how to do it, they now have the power generators working again and the pumps are working and they're able to get the sewage out. That's just one small example.\"
Colonel Lippart says in addition to a stronger economy, educational opportunities are improving in Iraq. \"We've had an opportunity to put new roofs on the schools. The textbooks the students were using were from the 1960's. They never bought new textbooks. These people are so much better off. Young girls are now allowed into the schools again. For a number of years, there were no young girls going to school whatsoever. So while I know that it's a matter of opinion whether you believe we should be there or not, I just wanted to share with you today that we're doing a tremendous amount of good in Iraq and while it's frustrating to see all the bad stuff on TV, we must show them what right looks like. There's an entire generation there that doesn't know what it looks like. They don't know what organization looks like. There were no city councils before, now there are because we've stood them up in all the little towns. They now have organization on how to provide services for their people.\"
Colonel Lippart is a 1989 graduate of Penn State University and later received his Masters degree in Business Administration at the University of Texas. He is a Distinguished Military graduate, having been commissioned into the U.S. Army where he joined the Aviation branch. During 2001-2002, he attended the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He has been the Chief of Contingency Contracting at the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. During his service in Iraq, Lippart served as Chief of Plans and Programs Contracting Headquarters for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Colonel Lippart has received numerous medals including the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorius Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Joint Service Medal, Meritorius Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Freedom Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrrorism Expeditionary Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, and Humanitarian Service Medal, among others.