Carolyn Tetrault was one of two keynote speakers at Arab’s Memorial Day ceremony last week.
YN2 Carolyn Tetrault of Arab is a Texas native, having moved many times as a youth. She joined the Navy in 1978 with the attitude of seeing the world. After three years active service in Jacksonville, Fla., she transferred into the Navy Reserves. During that time she attended Jacksonville Fire Training Academy and graduated in 1982 as the first woman graduate of the program.
She moved to Pensacola to visit family and found out the fire department at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola was seeking to hire women firefighters. The fire chief was ecstatic that she not only knew what a fire hose was but also, she was a Florida state certified firefighter.
This hiring would have made her the first woman firefighter on the NAS as well.
But, as God would have it, she fell in love with a Marine who was a student at NAS Pensacola. She married Lloyd Tetrault on the way to his first fleet Marine force duty station.
She followed her husband around the world with two children, which included serving at many different reserve centers and bases. She also served at NRC Denver; NRC Pearl Harbor; NRC Washington, DC; NRC Shreveport; NRC Dallas and NRC Birmingham. She was the assistant naval emergency liaison preparedness liaison officer for the state of Hawaii and then Alabama.
After her husband’s retirement, they moved to Texas. Within five years, they adopted four siblings. Carolyn ended her military career to take on the new focus of raising the four children. In 2007 the family moved to Arab. Carolyn and her husband have both been on the Arab High School JROTC Advisory Committee since the program’s inception in 2014. Three of the four children joined JROTC Program that first year.
The following is the (edited) text of the speech she gave at last week’s Arab Memorial Day ceremony:
It is with extreme honor to be asked to speak here today. But before I say anything about myself, I want to tell you a story. Maybe you have heard it.
President (George) Herbert Walker Bush and First Lady Barbara were visiting Texas. The convoy had to stop for fuel along the way.
While they were stopped, Barbara noticed the gentleman pumping the gas. Immediately she jumped out of the car and ran and hugged him.
After they talked for what seems like a long time, they hugged again and she got back into the car.
President Bush, being very curious, asked her who that was.
“Well he was my high school sweetheart,” she said.
Acting somewhat smerky, the president said, “If you would have married him, you would have been the wife of a gas station attendant. Now look at you, married to the United States president.”
She started laughing and replied, “Oh honey, silly boy. If I would have married him, he would have been president.”
Not sure if this is true but you get the jest.
I like to laugh instead of cry. I hope this would help a little because of this day.
I did a little research online about the history of Memorial Day. It started out as Decoration Day.
Before that, women would decorate the gravesites of the soldiers lost during the Civil War. Most of the women were spouses of those who died.
I can tell you, without a doubt, we can do all the decorating you want, to all the cemetery’s from coast to coast but the pain will always be there for the ones left behind.
As the wife of a Marine and being a veteran, I have seen many women “broken.”
Children of the dead, “broken.”
But I will never, ever, cease to tell every one of them whom I meet, it is because of their support of their fallen spouses, dads or moms, that gives us the freedom every day that millions on this earth will never see, yet we, as Americans, enjoy and are so spoiled rotten because of.
Some will not understand all I have said unless you have walked in these shoes.
One more story that is true.
Lloyd and I took our grandson, Judah, who is 5, to NAS Pensacola RV Park to spend a week in April. We didn’t know at the time but the Blue Angels were practicing for three days before the main show.
They flew right over the park.
Judah said, while holding his ears, “It’s too loud!”
I said, “It’s the sound of freedom!”
He said, “Freedom is too loud.”
I am asking one thing of you who hear me. Please teach our kids and grandkids about what Memorial Day means, what sacrifices so many have given so we could, and can have freedom.
Give them the history of the ones that have died, and also, tell them about the ones left behind.
Would you mind if I pray?
Heavenly Father, You are so good. Without a doubt, it is because of the heroes You have given us that keep us free. We thank you, Father, for all that have given and the ones to come. And let all the free say, amen.