Memorial Day 2021
Greetings to you all,
It is for good reason that we gather together today with countless other Americans across the nation, and across the world. Regardless of race, creed or political persuasion, we gather in unified and solemn remembrance to honor the sacrifices of those who answered their nation’s call and who have willingly laid down their life for our freedoms.
The past year has been incredibly challenging, and as our way of life was changed in difficult and chaotic ways, it would be so easy to postpone our ceremony, delay our responsibility to America’s fallen service members to next year … make the excuse that we are tired, fatigued from the pandemic … to take a break. But the men and women of America’s Armed Forces who have sacrificed and given everything they have … including their very lives … for our safety and the freedoms we enjoy deserve more than an excuse.
Here at the VFW, we don’t make excuses and certainly not on this most sacred of days … on Memorial Day. Today, we pushed through the fatigue and pandemic exhaustion to come together to honor and pay our respects for those lost on the frontlines of battle. This Memorial Day, as we join together whether it is face to face or if only in mind and spirit, we remember their names, their faces, and their service legacy so that their sacrifices are never forgotten.
Those of us who gather today to honor fallen comrades have cherished memories of friends we shared a foxhole, or our meals with. Incredulous at the quick passage of time, we reflect on the brief moments we had with those now absent friends. Even though it may be many years since the day we bid farewell, we still revisit the times of shared laughter, the tears and the expectations that we all had for the future as though it were only yesterday. Their hopes and dreams and plans were never fulfilled because their lives … their time on earth was much too brief.
As we take this day to give thanks to them and quietly contemplate their ultimate sacrifice, we realize how markedly inadequate our attempt really is to pay tribute to them.
There are no words that can properly reflect the magnitude of what they accomplished. But, as we enjoy our way of life in the land of the free, and the home of the brave, we can commit ourselves to diligently reminding present and future generations of Americans that there is no freedom without bravery, and those we honor today were brave when it counted the most.
Our intent today is not to speak of the glory of battle or to pay homage to heroes or icons, but rather to reflect on the person behind the deed and remember all of our fallen brothers and sisters-in-arms for what they actually were: people just like us. Equally, they held true to the values upon which this great land was founded and shared a common belief in freedom, justice and liberty.
They were our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters and friends. Do you remember them? The next-door neighbors and the kids who lived down the block … they were the high school quarterbacks, cheerleaders and class clowns. Some of them were teachers, police, firefighters, plumbers and physicians. From every race, creed and color, they came from every corner of our great nation and from other countries as well. Together they defended, protected and advanced the cause of freedom.
They were different in many ways, yet somehow all the same; they were unified in spirit and united in purpose and mission. The men and women who we honor today were no better or worse than any of us. While protecting our nation, they did not choose the events of the world and the circumstances into which they were thrust; rather the circumstances and events of the world chose them.
Generation after generation has been fortunate enough to reap the benefits paid for by those who believe that freedom is worth fighting for and, if necessary, dying for.
In cemeteries across America and around the world today, people will pause to spread flowers on the graves of those lost in war. But today should not be about the sorrow we feel at their loss, and not about mourning. I ask that today you not accept feelings of grief or affliction, rather the feeling of honor, patriotism, and pride. It is said that where one story ends another begins. Though their lives were cut short, our absent comrades have ensured that the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution is applied equally and holds true for everyone, some of whom may not have otherwise been entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Memorial Day is a rare day of opportunity to give thanks for all we have been blessed with. Even though the significance of this day becomes at times confused or distorted, and the true meaning is sometimes lost to commercialism or drowned in forgetful indulgence, those of us who are here today recognize the magnitude of the accomplishment and the deeds of the men and women who helped to the idea that evil and tyranny must not, and will not prevail.
The courage possessed by the men and women who we are honoring today is something that cannot be taught. Their willingness to put country first is what truly makes America the home of the brave, and that is what this very special day is all about … being thankful that such brave men and women have lived, and to pay tribute to those heroic patriots who bravely rose up and fought for something greater than themselves, protecting a home to which they never returned.
No matter how different these soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen are from one another, one thing remains the same: This is the land of freedom and of liberty. History and experience have provided the undisputable truth it is the home of the brave. America will always be home, and a home worth dying for.
Today, we do more than just carry on a tradition dating back to 1866, when the first formal Memorial Day observances were conducted. We go beyond tradition, beyond remembering and beyond mourning; today, we work together to make this the country they died for – building a better nation each and every day.