Sgt. Major Daniel Sheward told the stories of his personal heroes during a Veterans Day ceremony at Madison Consolidated High School on Friday. He added that the families of those serving in the military, too, are heroes. (Staff photo by Phyllis McLaughlin/pmclaughlin@madisoncourier.com)
Sgt. Major Daniel Sheward told the stories of his personal heroes during a Veterans Day ceremony at Madison Consolidated High School on Friday. He added that the families of those serving in the military, too, are heroes. (Staff photo by Phyllis McLaughlin/pmclaughlin@madisoncourier.com)
As a young boy, Sgt. Major Daniel Sheward looked up to both of his grandfathers, who were World War II veterans, and his uncle, who served in Vietnam.

“These were the men I looked up to and wanted to be like,” said Sheward, the keynote speaker Friday during the Veterans Day ceremony at Madison Consolidated High School.

Because of those role models in his family, and his admiration of others who have served bravely in previous wars, he joined the U.S. Army in 1988, fulfilling a lifelong dream with the goal of paying for his education.

Nearly three decades later, he listed some of those other heroes:

Mary Ludwig, who earned the nickname Molly Pitcher for her work taking pitchers of water to soldiers fighting in the Battle of Monmouth during the American Revolutionary War. She also took over operation of the canon her husband was manning when he collapsed during the battle, he said.

“Dr. Mary Walker, while serving as an assistant surgeon during the Civil War, was captured by the Confederate army and remains the only female Medal of Honor recipient,” he said.

He talked about the bravery of Sgt. Alvin York, who did not want to fight, but was drafted at age 30 and sent to the front lines in France. “After seeing his fellow soldiers shot, he began killing the enemy and finally delivered 132 prisoners back to his headquarters.”

York, too, earned the Medal of Honor, as did Sgt. Audie Murphy, the highest-decorated soldier of WWII, and Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez, a noncommissioned officer in Special Forces, who was severely injured by a land mine in 1965. Despite being told he would never walk again, he returned to the war in 1968, Sheward said.

“After hearing that a group of SF were under attack and needed assistance, he grabbed his medical bag and boarded a helicopter, armed only with a knife,” Sheward said. “After a six-hour fight with the enemy and saving his comrades, he was evacuated. He was initially put in a body bag, only to alert the doctor that he was still alive. With 37 bullet, knife, bayonet and shrapnel wounds, he was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day.”

But the soldiers, he said, are not the only heroes. Because of the numerous moves – in the states and overseas – required by his job, his daughter, Mallory, a senior at MCHS, had only attended two schools two years in a row.

“They may not be out there getting shot at with us, but they are the tough ones,” he said.

“Tonight, when you go home and before you touch your head to your pillow ... take a moment to think about those men and women in the U.S. military who are around the world defending our freedoms. To those of you who call yourselves veterans, remember today is our day. You deserve all the thanks that your country and I can give you, because if you had not answered the call of your country, I may not have been here to answer my call.”

Following Sheward’s address, U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Turner read the roll call of all the veterans attending the ceremony, who, as they stood, all received applause from the students and community members also attending.