National Heroes Day highlights ‘where we have come from’
On the day when five new National Heroes were appointed and the inaugural Order of the Cayman Islands medals were awarded, Premier McKeeva Bush urged all Cayman residents to serve the community in the same spirit of sacrifice as those being honoured.
“We all have the potential to behave as heroes in our every day lives,” he told the crowd gathered around Heroes Square on Monday. One way is to follow the example of the people whose courage, commitment and vision were being recognised: nurse and teacher, social worker, legislator, civil servants, youth leaders and a group of men with an indelible place in history – the surviving members of the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve from among the more than 200 Caymanians who served during World War II.
Mr. Bush said these men had faced the dangers of wartime and surmounted the perils of peacetime; they were certainly deserving of the highest local award that could be made – the new Order of the Cayman Islands Medal of Honour, Commander level. The veterans receiving this medal were Carley Elton Ebanks, Thomas Ewart Ebanks, William Harvey Ebanks, Ashton Smith Tatum and Charles Winton Sr. Mr. Bush announced that another recipient, Harris Draper Ebanks, knew of the coming honour before his recent passing. He also named Rudolph McLaughlin as someone whose name had not been put forward in time for the ceremony, but whom he would bring to the attention of the nomination committee.
Also receiving the Medal of Honour, Commander level, were Dr. Steve Tomlinson and attorney Steve McField. A family member received the medal awarded to Layman Emmiel Scott Sr., who died in Cayman Brac last month. Other medals for the Order of the Cayman Islands were presented to 15 people.
Declaring that these Islands are “still the best place in the world to live in and be part of,” Mr. Bush called on all Caymanians “and those who come to live amongst us” to render their services and be part of the community. There are many roles in which people can be productive and many ways to build a nation, he said. One way is to not tear it down, not hurt other people or their property, not spread rumours.
Another way is to live and work as our forefathers did to overcome adversity. He extolled the achievements of the five new National Heroes (Caymanian Compass, 24 January), the recipients of the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour (Compass, 25 January) and local pioneers in the aviation industry.
Aviation was the theme for the 2011 Heroes Day celebration. Mr. Bush and former Member of Executive Council Norman Bodden traced some of the history. Mr. Bush said the decision to build an airport was made in 1951, and the Public Works Department had to build a road through swamp land before a crew came to build the airstrip. Government paid five shillings for each truckload of rock, which had to be loaded by hand. Two men, Berkley Bush and Kitchener Solomon, built the barracks for the airstrip crew and that building served as the airport terminal until the present terminal was built in the early 1980s.
The airport project cost 93,000 pounds, which was almost twice Cayman’s annual budget. The Colonial Development Corp. could not lend money to governments, so private individuals formed the Cayman Islands Corp. to carry out the borrowing.
“Look where we have come from!” Mr. Bush exclaimed. If each person would strive to live up to the examples set, this country’s success would be assured, he said.
He concluded by confirming the construction of a new national park in downtown George Town [on the site of the former Tower Building on North Church Street]. The first spontaneous applause of the morning came when he noted that some people had said Government should sell the land, and then declared, “Government will not sell that piece of land. It will be kept for all and sundry as a national park.” A Christian heritage monument in the form of a bell tower will hopefully be commemorated, he said.
Participants in the Heroes Day ceremony included Gov. Duncan Taylor, Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence, master of ceremonies Roy Bodden and Pastor Ellen Peguero. Kera Smith, Jeffrey Wilson and The University College Choir sang. The parade was comprised of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Band and detachments from the police, fire service, prison service, Cadet Corps, Girls Brigade, Scouts, Cub Scouts and Pathfinders.