Memorial Day 2018
Thank you Mr. Supervisor, elected officials, and honored guests. Allow me to extend special thanks to my fellow Veterans and Servicemembers.
I have been afforded the privilege of addressing you before on Memorial Day in remembrance of my fellow Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who have fallen in battle and whose memory we consecrate today. Repetition makes the exercise no easier. It is a solemn duty to mark the supreme sacrifice made by young men and women – and the eternal grief borne by their families.
We are now in the 17th year of the “most constant generation’s” war. Since 2001, the defenders of freedom have been continuously deployed in bleak places facing despots and malefactors, or making ready for such deployments.
Our most recent war began with an attack on civilian workers doing nothing more than trying to earn a living for their families. That attack on our own homeland in New York City, Washington DC, and rural Pennsylvania led to more than 3000 deaths- one of whom was LTC William “Bill” Pohlman. Bill was a lawyer working at the World Trade Center. He was also a reserve Soldier who interviewed me to enter the Army. He was assigned to a unit that, a generation later, I am now honored to Command.
Since that day, many great Americans have come forward to stand for the noble experiment, which is America. And, some have fallen. All in hopes to further, defend, and preserve the proposition that there can be a nation conceived in liberty and where all people are created equal- where all people are free to think and act in accordance with their conscience- where there is justice and equity under the law for all.
From my own unit- superior Americans like SPC Harley Andrews, SPC John Wood, SSG Lawrence Parish, CPL Stephen Shannon, SGT Ross Clevenger, SGT James Holtom, PFC Raymond Werner, SSG Coby Schwab, SPC Kelly Grothe, SFC Anthony Wasielewski, SPC Eric Smallwood, SPC Doron Chan, SGT Catalin Dima and many others throughout our Services have died believing in a future for America. They believed that the ideal of our nation as the shining city on the hill is a reality. They lived and died believing YOU are that reality. They lived and died knowing that America is not simply some abstract idea in government, but rather the compilation of the people within it and the values they hold. The nation is the sum of the intentions of its people- You are America.
All thoughtful and honest Americans lament war and no one of good faith seeks it. Yet, as it has for the last generation, war comes to us, brought by malicious, short- sighted and usually power-hungry tyrants or nihilistic terror mongers.
Evil cannot be appeased and must be defeated. Zealotry and predation cannot be bargained with and must be destroyed.
Defenders of freedom in this country voluntarily step forward and agree to accept all of the risks attendant upon facing down those who murder our fellow citizens, seek to enslave our children, and fracture our way of life. It is not thirst for fighting which compels this self-less act, but a mature assessment that this is the right thing to do and the cost which must be paid if the experiment in liberty is to endure. Some are wounded and some die- It is true that tyranny, like hell is not easily conquered, and as Thomas Paine has said, such a celestial article as freedom is dearly bought.
And, yet men and women from all walks of our nation’s life steel themselves to the courage of their convictions and continue to meet unspeakable horrors nobly advancing the cause of freedom- protecting things which we take for granted everyday- Freedom from want, freedom of expression, freedom to worship as we see fit, and freedom from fear.
The enormity of the sacrifice made by Servicemembers in defense of our country caused a spontaneous movement in which people decorated the graves of fallen Soldiers at a time just after the Civil War. That self-motivated civic act of respect (and mourning) continued unabated and was eventually made into a National Day of Remembrance for our fallen brothers and sisters. The public and community act of honoring the fallen is important- more than just to remember them and to comfort their families in knowing they are not forgotten. It is important to validate the lives foregone so that we may commit to ourselves in this moment to bring the light to dark places- This public commitment to honor the fallen is our reminder to seek the higher path. To question ourselves and evaluate what we are doing with the gift given to us?
I have asked, in this place before, that we bring our honored dead to life by validating their sacrifice, by living the values imbued to us in freedom, justice and liberty, and manifesting the optimistic and selfless spirit of those heroes who have given their all for us.
I would now put forth the challenge- are we worthy of the sacrifice? Do we make each day the conscious effort to better our society- our homes- our community- our nation? Are we striving to be, each day, the people those who died for us believe we can and should be?
If called to account what would your answer be?