Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Photo courtesy of Dick Sanford,
Catskill Mountain News
I was privileged to give the following address honoring America's fallen heroes at the Memorial Day ceremony in Margaretville, NY:

Beloved friends and neighbors we are gathered together today to remember those who have fallen in battle defending our country.

This world of ours is hard. it holds many dangers. Those we call warriors, among them our family members, neighbors and friends, answer the call to face these dangers; taking up arms, using the unforgiving brute power of military force. Young Americans from every sector of society answer the call to defend our country as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guard. Most serve with honor and then return home to tell us of both the gallantry and horrors of war. Some do not come home. It is for this latter group, the brave souls who made the unthinkable sacrifice of laying their lives down that we gather today... to remember.

You see, we are the living. It is our sacred duty to gather and honor their sacrifice. But their sacrifice is also a call for us to action. Should we neglect the opportunity to forward the cause of good here at home, the purpose for which our fallen warriors have sacrificed themselves becomes even more tragic. Should we take advantage of our time here and press forward the higher values that America represents; goodness, honor, strength, family, faith, neighborly kindness, compassion and liberty; the sacrifice of the fallen remains a point of pride and great worth.

It is sometimes hard to imagine the audacity of the original founders to believe that a nation conceived on the principles of freedom and liberty could be attainable and maintainable in such a hostile world. Their doing so manifests a deep faith in the power of goodwill among countrymen, but that faith has been tested over and over again on battlefields around the world. Since the Declaration of Independence was issued by the Continental Congress in 1776 well over a million men and women have died on battlefields at home and abroad, defending this unique and wonderful vision. A Nineteenth century French political thinker named Alexis de Tocqueville, curious about what makes America so great wrote what he believes is the key: He said, "America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

As the member of a family with many former and current military members, Memorial Day has over recent years become very personal. The following piece was written by my brother-in-law, James Capra. "The phone call is still fresh in my head because it was unusual for my brother to call me so early in the morning. I met the call with an upbeat hello only to hear back the broken voice of my brother saying …'They got him…they got Tony, the notification team just left…' My nephew, Tech Sgt. Anthony (Tony Jr.) L. Capra, was an Explosive Ordinance Technician in the US Air Force. On the morning of April 9, 2008, Tony Jr. defused a massive IED in Golden Hills, Iraq. What Tony Jr. didn’t know was that the bomb was tied to another device which was a booby trap and in an instant, Tony Jr., a son, a brother, a husband, the father of five, and the oldest of twelve children was gone. We had suddenly become a family that understood the true meaning of Memorial Day."

Americans are brave on the battlefield. We are opinionated. We are strong. We are compassionate and we are motivated. We openly disagree about many things but at the end of the day we have a country worth fighting for. We have a country that is the envy of the world. A country that still holds the promise of opportunity for those who would take the challenge. Famous singer Gloria Estefan was on TV last night performing at the annual Memorial Day presentation at the US Capitol. She spoke of being a Cuban immigrant and how proud her father was to join the US military. She was raised a military kid, living in many places and her father fought in Vietnam. She said afterward he suffered many symptoms of having been exposed to Agent Orange and that it contributed to his death. Yet she spoke of America in glowing terms... her love for America, her appreciation, her gratitude, her passion for our land.

So today we remember our heroes. The fallen but not forgotten. The brave sons and daughters who have consecrated America with their blood. We owe them a debt we can never repay... we will not forget... we will not forsake their acts of gallantry.