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Fortenberry: Veterans’ sacrifices make them great

November 12, 2016 GMT

COLUMBUS — Each time U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry walks through the Chicago airport on his way to Washington, D.C., he passes a photo of a pilot.

It’s a picture of O’Hare International Airport’s namesake, Lt. Edward “Butch” O’Hare, who served in the United States Navy during World War II.

Fortenberry said he never knew much about O’Hare. But he learned his story and shared it with the crowd Friday during the local Veterans Day ceremony at Lakeview Junior/Senior High School.

O’Hare’s father was a lawyer and worked for gangster Al Capone. The elder O’Hare was shot dead after his testimony helped send Capone to prison for income tax evasion.

The senior O’Hare might has testified to turn his life around for his son, who entered the United States Naval Academy and became a Medal of Honor recipient. During World War II, Butch O’Hare shot down several Japanese bombers during an attack on the USS Lexington aircraft carrier.

Fortenberry said the O’Hare story is one of three men — a gangster who robbed, a lawyer who changed to do good and the lawyer’s son who turned from good to great by securing a victory during the war.

“Seeing young people choosing well, choosing good, this is the continuous high calling of our lives. Look around you and you’ll see many veterans. Many of these veterans have never told the story about what they did, about their own heroic sacrifice. They all made a choice themselves and their choice to willingly sacrifice for you has made them great,” Fortenberry said.

He said Veterans Day is about honoring those choices because their bravery has afforded us the liberty and security we now enjoy.

“Most simply returned to civilian life and perhaps never mentioned any word of what they did in military service except to say this, ‘I did what was expected of me. I did my duty,’” Fortenberry said.

In closing, the congressman also preached unity among all after a difficult and decisive election. He echoed the words of President-elect Donald Trump, President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton about the need to come together.

“Despite our political divisions, in spite of the anger and divisiveness that can exist at election time, we are still properly called to reflect about that which is noble, that which is good and those who are great,” Fortenberry said.