May 30, 2016
Today, out of all days, we need to put aside our disagreements and strife, and take time to remember those who are too often out of sight, but never out of our hearts and minds.
Today, as a community and nation, we share a great common sorrow as we publically honor the best and noblest of us all. Memorial Day is a day of conflicting emotions for each of us; a blend of pride and mournfulness, gratitude and loss, overshadowed by a deep and profound sense of patriotism.
Memorial Day is the day for all Americans as one body, to stand up and say “We remember you.”
Certainly every loss of life is tragic, especially when it is a life prematurely ended in the heat of combat. May the memory of our collective sons and daughters be cherished and their sacrifices noted and appreciated by the country they so bravely protected.
Today, we also honor those families of the fallen who are joined together and bound by a loss in ways most of us can’t even imagine more less understand. Bereaved parents often become isolated after a tragic loss. Friends don’t know what to say about a grief no words can touch. There isn’t a word for a parent who has lost a child; Webster’s or the Oxford dictionaries can’t define it. What we can do is remember their loss and the best way to thank these families is to honor their fallen, just as we are doing this morning.
Americans, as we know, can be forgetful of the sacrifices made by military members, veterans and their families. Beyond the many citations for valor are the untold, undocumented stories of men and women who live with the scars of war. As we maintain the memory and deeds of our fallen, we also need to remember to care for those who have returned home from their service. Many Americans are coming home with amputations, disfigurements, physical illness due to environmental exposures, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. They have stood up for each and every one of us here today. They have stood for us, when we couldn’t or wouldn’t stand for ourselves. It is now up to us, as a grateful nation, to stand with them in the face of politics and power, to see that their wounds; the wounds of mind, body and spirit are healed, and in so doing, health and hope are restored.
President Thomas Jefferson wrote and I quote “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. End quote. To that end, never forget, never let your children forget, how fortunate we are to have a voluntary force of men and women willing to safeguard our freedom so we can rest soundly at night.
What happens long after the yellow ribbons fade to white, the last note is blown for Taps, and the flag waving has died down? Does our obligation to remember end there? Absolutely not. Our honored dead and veterans deserve better. The defenders of this nation fulfilled their duty and obligation to us, and we have an equal duty to honor and fulfill our obligations to them. To do anything less is a betrayal. Let our every deed and act be guided by the memory of those who gave their lives for our freedom. May their sacrifice continue to inspire us and strengthen our resolve.
As their loyal countrymen, we pledge to never abandon their memory or allow them to slip from our national conscience. Your attendance here today stands as a testimony of a grateful public.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” End quote. On this day, of all days, that silence is deafening. As we leave this place, listen to those now silent voices of the fallen, who across the generations, call out to us from beyond the grave. Listen to their silence not with your ears, but rather with your hearts. Listen to their silence and remember.
God bless us all, and may God continue to bless these United States.