Givhan: Americans are affected by war

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 12, 2014


War affects not just veterans, but all Americans, Maj. Gen. Walter D. Givhan (Ret.) said.

Givhan, who served in both Desert Shield and Desert Storm, was the keynote speaker for the 11th annual Covington County Veterans and POW/MIA ceremony.

“I’d like to start with why we celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11,” he said. “On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns fell silent. It was one of the most significant events in human history.”

The scale and dramatic loss of life of World War I had never been experienced before, he said.

“The hope was that it was the war to end all wars, that peace would reign,” he said.

The world is starting to observe the 100th anniversary of World War I, which began in 1914, he said.

“World War I has a special place in airmen’s hearts, because it is where air power was born,” he said. “Before that there was wholesale slaughter in the trenches, and basically a stalemate.

“Air power offered a promise to go over, not through,” he said. “It was a way to bypass the trenches and save lives.”

World War I also was the first time society began to realize the significant toll of war, he said.

“There was a physical toll, in that it took the flower of a generation,” he said. “Those who survived were scarred for life. The maiming was horrible.

“But it also took a psychological toll on veterans,” he said. “They called it shell-shocked. We call it PTSD, and we understand it a lot better now.”

There are parallels between current moment and that period of world history, Givhan said. In the current war on terror, key elements are American developments in air power, space and cyberspace. Technological achievements are saving lives, he said.

“We lost millions of lives in the world wars; 58,000 in Vietnam; and 2,300 in Afghanistan. That’s after 11 years of war.”

America has to lead, he said, adding that he believes the U.S. military will be engaged for some time to come.

“None of us are untouched,” he said. “Let’s hold each other up as we celebrate that spirit of all vets and all Americans on this day.”

Givhan, who retired from the Air Force earlier this year, is senior vice chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development at Troy University.

A native of Safford, Ala., he previously served as vice commander of Air University in Montgomery, where he oversaw all of the Air Force’s higher education, including the Community College of the Air Force, the world’s largest community college system. He has also served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in charge of U.S. global assistance programs and as Commandant of the Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton, Ohio.