Today is a day unlike any other for the American citizen. It is a day that we honor our heroic dead; those who have given their “last full measure of devotion” for us—the living. And while we celebrate our freedoms, we are wise and dutiful to remember the sacrifices that make our homeland possible. On this day of memorial, we honor those who sacrificed their lives for the God-given fruits of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln in His Gettysburg Address, he declared: “It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Gettysburg Address 1863
John F. Kennedy declared not long ago: “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”
It is in that wisdom that you are here today. Because we know that, “Tyrrany, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:–‘Tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to set a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” –Thomas Paine: Dec. 1776 (American struggle for Liberty)
Little towns deserve the best of speeches and the best of messages…because they have always been the heart of American life and the backbone of Liberty!–But the greatest messages delivered will not be one from a posture of words or rhetoric…. Rather, it will be from those who laid down their lives for the living because “there is no greater love than this…” It is for us to contemplate: If freedom ever fails, it is not the cause of the heroic dead—it is because we the living esteemed their lives and the cause of Liberty to be too cheap to continue the fight.
The greatest honor and tribute every American can show their Country is by living honorably in this country, in communities. This starts in the smallest of places. This honorable conduct starts in the smallest of communities. This ideal starts in the American heart everywhere—and it is the greatest measure of devotion that any living man or woman can show on behalf of the sacred sacrifice of those whom laid down their lives for the cause of freedom. They delivered the torch to the generation that stands here now. And we will do well, to give our full measure of devotion, fighting for freedom within communities—exercising the freedoms we have, now—to keep that which we have been given.
“. . . Virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed . . . so long as our manners and principles remain sound, there is no danger.” –Patrick Henry
“Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.” –Patrick Henry (The Man who moved America to action in his famous speech and quote: “give me liberty or give me death!”.)
Learn from Martin Trucktown, a man that Ronald Reagan made mention of in one of his own speeches. Trucktown was a little-known young man who left his smalltown barber shop to serve on the western front in France, in the year 1917. He was killed in his heroic efforts to deliver a message to the war front. Of the effects recovered from his body was a journal. On the front page read: My pledge: “America must win this war; therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully, and do my utmost as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”(Imagine what kind of America those ideals could produce once again.)
In the words sung by Lee Greenwood, “Well, there’s pride in every American heart…the flag still stands for freedom—and they can’t take that away!”
The reverence we show–to those whom we choose to remember–will chart the course for the future of our families, our communities, and our country. May we give honor to whom honor is due this day and hallow in our hearts a “sacred ground” that only One Nation under God can consecrate. May in God we still trust: “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and Justice for all.”
From the pen of Thomas Jefferson; in the Declaration of Independence, these words are still altogether fitting—tying the past sacrifices with future success—he writes: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Today, we give thanks, and remember the sacrifices made, by those Americans worthy of sacred Honor.