Here is the Memorial Day address by Victor Gades, delivered during the annual program at the Morris National Guard Armory on May 31. The address included a video: "Remember Me" by Lizzie Palmer, a 15 year old from Ohio.
A YouTube video of "Remember Me" is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ervaMPt4Ha0
Victor Gades address:
After viewing this video, Hank Millward from Virginia wrote:
"What the American public needs to remember is that, although you may not support the current war efforts, or other U.S. Military involvement around the globe... you have a duty as an American citizen to support the men and women that serve in the Armed Forces. They have chosen to serve in the military, and although they may not have chosen to be in the position that the military has placed them in, they do their duty each day, not knowing if it will be their last. Whether you know someone serving in the military through a family connection or some other means ... ALL military members should expect to know that they are appreciated as a person first, doing their chosen duty, and then as a soldier, sailor, airman,
or marine. They are the providers of the very blanket of security under which we as Americans lay down to rest every day.
They have chosen to serve and, if called upon, to pay the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that America remains the land of the free, BECAUSE of the brave."
NOW! Those of us who are still breathing cannot repay the sacrifice of those who gave their lives defending us, but at the very least, we can and we must remember them.
Sadly, none of the more than 1 million men and Women who have died in service to this nation in wars and conflicts since 1775 can be replaced. Most were young - in the prime of their lives. Some were husbands, wives, fathers or mothers. All left a nation that is in their debt.
If you asked these heroes before they died how they would like to be honored, most would probably say "Take care of my family."
The empty seat at the dinner table, the smaller gathering on Thanksgiving and the daughter who has no father to walk her down the wedding aisle are painful reminders that they are gone.
We must continue to live up to President Lincoln's promise to not just care for him who shall have borne the battle, but for his widow and his orphan. Remembering our fallen once a year is not enough. We must continue the legacy for which they died: the causes of democracy, decency and patriotism.
While Memorial Day is intended to honor our fallen, we should not forget those who have pledged to make the same sacrifice if called upon - the young men and women still serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the United States and in more than 130 foreign lands.
We must continue to bear witness for those who never returned from the
deserts of the Middle East, the jungles of Vietnam, the "Forgotten War" in
Korea, the islands in the Pacific, and the European continent.
Several years ago, retired Navy Admiral Bill Owens wrote in The American Legion Magazine, "Many of us know the pain of losing a comrade who stood by
our side. And we have shed many tears when our comrades were lost on
battlefields around the world in pursuit of something they knew to be
important, something they did on the command of their leaders and with
confidence that that leadership would not let them down."
Just as these heroes were confident in their wartime leaders - we must remain confident and committed to ensure that our national leaders know that the sacrifice made by these young men and women was in pursuit of something they, too, knew to be important.
America must remain the world's beacon of freedom. We must represent the aspiration and hope of millions of people, that through hard work and perseverance, anyone can succeed in this fair and just society.
Writing in a letter from a Birmingham jail, Dr. Martin Luther King could have been describing countless American military missions when he wrote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
So today, on this most sacred day, we pause to Reflect on what has been given and sacrificed. Let us never forget. But let us also remember what resulted from these sacrifices. Let us remember the terrorist plots that were foiled and the killers that have been brought to justice because Americans were willing to pay the price. Let us remember the tyrannical regimes that have been toppled and the genocides that were stopped
because Americans sacrificed life and limb.
Let us remember that without a U.S. military, the world would be a far
more oppressive and darker place.
Freedom is not a gift. It is an earned benefit that was paid for by the blood of our heroes. From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terrorism, the sacrifices and caliber of America's fighting men and women have been nothing short of inspirational.
One of the most poignant poems of World War I is Titled "In Flanders Fields." In it, Canadian John McCrae seems to not only describe the fallen heroes of that war, but those of every era:
"In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Love, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Let us always remember them. God bless you all, and God bless America.