One of the more meaningful honors I've received has been my commission as a Kentucky Colonel.
After making a speech at the VA Hospital in Lexington more than 25 years ago, my hosts presented me with an attractive plaque commemorating that particular event. Personally, I regard the award as my entry into a fraternity of people who are recognized as good ambassadors of the Commonwealth, and have a willingness to help others.
Simply put, but deep and meaningful.
It was hand-signed by Governor Brereton C. Jones and Secretary of State Robert "Bob" Baggage, another EKU graduate.
Said to be, "The highest honor awarded by the state of Kentucky, the Colonels are Kentucky's ambassadors of goodwill and fellowship around the world."
Through the years I've encountered and connected with other "Colonels" and the initial fellowship, many times, blossomed into meaningful, life-long relationships.
Charles S. Todd, son-in-law of Kentucky's first Governor, Issac Shelby, was commissioned a Colonel when he was appointed to the Kentucky militia, headed by Governor Shelby. Following the War of 1812 Kentucky governors commissioned "Colonels" as their protective guard, complete with uniforms, representing Kentucky governors at most official functions.
The "Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels" was founded in 1932 by Governor Ruby Laffoon, and has been officially incorporated as a charitable organization.
The first National Commanding General of the Order was Charles Pettijohn. He held the highest rank of the order and was primarily responsible for the finances. Later, Anna Bell Ward was appointed Secretary and was responsible for organizing the Colonels.
Several well-known and worldly people have been commissioned as Kentucky Colonels. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill have been honored and notably, while orbiting the earth, Astronaut John Glenn was commissioned!
In the field of entertainment Bing Crosby and Red Skelton have been commissioned and recognized for their achievements. Colonel commissions, signed by sitting Kentucky governors and secretaries of state bearing the great seal of Kentucky, make up a "Who's Who" of outstanding men and women.
What could be more rewarding than reaching out to others, especially in their time of need?
I haven't heard much about the award lately, but what a time to resurrect the values it stands for. There is no better time than the present for those better angels in our midst to mobilize and offer themselves up to the high calling of service.
In an earlier column, I talked about "where there's life there's hope," simply meaning that as long as one's alive, he or she can make positive contributions. Calling all Colonels out there, scattered through central Kentucky and beyond, let's dust off those commissions in those ornate frames hanging on the walls in our basements and hallways!
Let's round up other Colonels we know and make up some cadres of individuals who will commit to influencing our fellow citizens to avail themselves for coronavirus vaccinations.
What about assisting disabled veterans, immobile seniors, especially older persons of color and people in general who don't have reliable transportation to and from vaccination sites?
Many of us don't realize that access to and from vaccination sites is a major problem affecting many people. Groups of Colonels could rent vans and arrange caravans.
You feel me?
That would be a good start!
Now could be an ideal time for our 'fraternity' to reach out and make a real difference in our communities.
With the confluence of the coronavirus pandemic, racial tension, economic and social inequities and mental frailties there are many opportunities for those of us who are willing and able to volunteer our services and resources on behalf of our fellow citizens.
Let's consider living up to the creed of our commissions as Kentucky Colonels.