I am proud to be an American and have the opportunity to pay tribute to those American men and women who gave their lives so that we, today, can enjoy the freedom, the liberty and the riches of our great nation. In 1984, President Reagan spoke these words on Memorial Day. “Today, we honor the dead of our wars. We recall their valor and their sacrifices. We remember they gave their lives so that others might live.”
Throughout our history, Americans have always responded to the call to arms when our nation has been threatened. We showed it during the revolution, when outnumbered and with no battle experience, we won our independence and became a nation. The war of 1812, the Spanish American war, WWI & 2. Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq and Afghanistan. The American soldier has always stood in the gap to prevent tyranny and evil nations from taking away the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we are guaranteed by our constitution. Marines fighting horrific battles from island to island in ww2, the 101st airborne holding Bastogne. The Tuskegee airmen protecting American bombers over Germany and the big red one fighting across Europe. The marines again at Khe Sahn, the 1st air cavalry division in Vietnam and more tales of bravery and shed American blood that defined us as a nation and not someone to screw with.
Today for me is a day of gratitude. Gratitude to the military for always being prepared to fight and die for my freedom. Gratitude to those who did die and who no longer enjoy the opportunities that our nation offers. Gratitude to the families who lost family members and will never have the chance to make lasting memories with their loved ones. Today we honor those families as well for their sacrifice and the pain that they have suffered. Gratitude that our nation, that was founded on the principal that all men are created equal and that our creator grants every American the same rights and privileges.
I am also grateful to our community for always supporting our military and those who served. Our gold star families, the VFW, the American legion, Vietnam veterans and the veteran’s administration.
In 1968 I was drafted into the army. At the time I was in college but with no real direction in life so I said why not. At that time one of my classmates had already died in Vietnam. Marine private Gary Miller. Later, two more would also be killed. Lieutenant Kenny Scurr and Lieutenant Jimmy Deeble. It was an uncertain time in my life but I got on the bus with my buddy Larry Bertram and off we went. Ft. Lewis, Washington and a drill instructor that used the f-bomb in ways that still amaze me. Larry got out early on a medical discharge and I ended up going to combat medic school in Texas. Well, I figured that as a medic I was screwed so I and four others got the great idea that we should go to airborne school and then when we went to Vietnam we could go to the 101st or the 82nd airborne. We all ended up in Germany stationed with the 8th infantry division, in the only airborne qualified medic company in Europe. In 18 months I never put so much as a band aid on anyone. But, I got to jump and get the additional $55 a month. Vietnam was not in god’s plan for my life and I still reflect on what would have happened.
There is a bible verse that goes like this “greater love has no man than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friend”. This is a perfect picture of those soldiers that we honor today. I am grateful today because over 55,000 Americans died in my place to protect me and my future, and I often reflect on their sacrifice and I love them for it.
I am grateful for our veteran’s service officer David West, a marine veteran who has helped me with VA benefits that I was unaware of. David is a great resource to all county veterans and their families. I am grateful to the Nuhs students who have built the flag retirement boxes so that our American flags can be retired. On Veterans Day, our local scouts will have a ceremony to dispose of the flags properly.
I hope I will never know what it is like to lose a family member or a loved one that has been killed in battle. But, that doesn’t stop us from taking the time to remember. But also, we must always remember those who did return with physical and mental injuries and support them in their struggle to be the productive Americans that we all try and be.
This is a weird time in our nation and there is so much uncertainty in the future. Today we are somber and reflective as we take the time to remember the Americans who died for our freedom. History is a great teacher. Let those who died for us teach us how to learn from our past, correct our mistakes and always recognize the good that our country represents. In closing, I want to share a Memorial Day quote from President John F. Kennedy. “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that path is the path of surrender, or submission.”
God bless you all and god bless America.