President John F. Kennedy said, *A nation reveals itself not only by the men and women it produces but also by the men and women it honors, the men and women it remembers. Today, we remember and honor these American Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen... ordinary men and women, who died while in military service. This day is set aside to ensure that their sacrifices are not set aside.
Freedom is not free. It has a cost. Our Warriors, men and women, lived supporting the lives and the values that create the backbone of our nation. It is our duty to lift up the lives of these heroes. They obligated themselves to go “in harm's way” to protect the values inculcated in our founding documents and along the way made themselves the embodiment of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, and, above all other traits, honor, integrity, and personal courage. They were our neighbors and classmates, men and women who rose to meet seemingly impossible odds and did extraordinary things.
They were brave men and women who left the safety of their sovereign soil to defeat tyrants, ensure justice and fulfill the promise of safety and security for our citizens and the global community. Their lives were dedicated not to conflict or death but to compassion and to life... and in a word... freedom.
There is a real challenge today which is emerging in the debacle of the Veterans' Hospital care. The winds of change blow in both directions...good and bad. We are seeing the sacrifices of our Warriors minimized in ways which seek to tear the fabric of our patriotic heritage. Perhaps it is time to reflect upon our proud heritage, reconnect with our history and the values which made this Nation great. Perhaps we are presented with the opportunity to embrace our heritage and given the chance to evaluate the present, to re-evaluate and renew the values inculcated in the founding concept of “patriotism” and freedom.
The challenges we face today, while seemingly insurmountable, pale before the life and death challenges our Veterans have faced throughout our proud history. They have paid the full price for our freedom and have provided us with a template of commitment. We have only to fill in the blanks on the template. We can face the challenges presented today by embracing the strength and creativity of those we honor.
Our Veterans died so we would have the freedom to choose the avenue of honor and dignity and see that that avenue leads to FREEDOM. Their memory lives to insure the words Thomas Jefferson wrote in his “Testament of Freedom”: “The God who gave us life, gave us Liberty”.
(*amended to be gender inclusive )