June 12, 2014 --
The retirees’ breakfast, a monthly event held at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, is usually a hub for dissemination of information for retirees and veterans.
June 4, attendees got a lot more than they had expected.
Town and Country Restaurant Grand Ballroom was the scene for the more than 40 tear-filled faces, who gathered and listened as guest speaker, Othellious Cato, recited his oration, “A Warrior's Prayer: The Courage of our Servicemen.”
Retirees, members of the Dougherty County School System and other attendees at the breakfast, sat in total silence as Cato, a 2014 graduate of Westover High School, Albany, Georgia, delivered a monologue, which he wrote in honor of the country's service men and women.
“I came to use this speech to show the proper honor and respect to those who have served to ensure our safety,” the high school graduate said. “I think that it's very important to show gratitude to those Marines (and other service members), to let them know that we respect them and that we remember them for their service.”
The orator’s mother smiled broadly as she commented on her feelings about her son’s invitation to speak for the occasion.
“It is a great honor to know that someone sees enough potential in your son to actually ask him to come out and speak to the retirees,” Laciana Cato, mother of speaker, said. “I think that (it) is a great pleasure. I enjoy coming out (to the base).”
Some retirees, like Willie Qualls and Ronald Kirstatter, admitted their primary reasons for
attending the monthly breakfasts were to spend time with other retirees as well as to receive information and updates on eligible services.
Qualls, a retired Marine, works as a materials management supervisor, Disassembly Disposition Record, Marine Forces Reserve, Marine Corps Logistics Command, and Kirstatter, another retired Marine, serves as commandant, Department of Georgia, Marine Corps League.
Other retirees, who attended the breakfast, said they were “moved” by Cato’s compassionate delivery of his presentation.
One retired Army veteran, Art Thornton, is a base sports official and retired human resources specialist, MCLB Albany.
“I am a retired Army veteran of 28 years,” Thornton said. “I always try to attend the retiree breakfasts to find out the latest updates and to find out what is going on with veterans.
“I can say, this breakfast was very inspiring with the young man, who gave the speech referencing veterans,” he said. “For former service members and for a young man his age to have a poem that he orchestrated and put together (about) a warriors prayer is something very dear to their hearts.”
Thornton associated portions of Cato’s speech to the commemoration of the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy.
“(You) never know when your last day will be or when you get up in the morning whether or not this will be the last day that you will see on this side of the world,” Thornton said. “I think (the young man’s) speech was very inspiring especially as we come into the memorial for the invasion of Normandy.”
Bob James, deputy director, Operations and Training Division, MCLB Albany, commented on the emotional impact that Cato’s speech had on him.
“I was very moved by his speech,” the retired Marine chief warrant officer 5, said. “First of all I thought he truly believed the words he was saying and it wasn’t just something he had written as a school requirement. I felt it was something he truly had compassion for. Someone as young as he, his maturity level and the way he presented himself was just outstanding and something that I’m very proud (of seeing) in this generation.”
James also gave his personal opinion of the reaction, which he observed from fellow retirees, during Cato’s recital.
“The group he was speaking to, by in large, are older,” James recalled. “In all of my years here and attending the breakfasts, I have never seen a speaker move that group. We have speakers every month but none of them have ever touched the hearts of that group like he did.”
The young orator, who received a standing ovation for his recitation, plans to attend law school, “to become a lawyer and use (his) speaking skills to the best of (his) ability,” as a legal advocate.
According to Raymond Breaux, retired affairs coordinator, Marine and Family Services, MCLB Albany, the monthly event’s purpose has been to keep the retired community informed about the activities aboard the installation and to advocate for retirees as it relates to services they are entitled to receive.
“(The retiree breakfast is held) monthly and there are normally 35-40 that regularly attend, but, of course, during the summer holidays a lot of them go on vacation, so (attendance) varies from time to time,” Breaux said.
Speakers for each of the events are, generally, chosen based on recommendations from the attendees.