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Sunday, May 30, 2010


This week’s FROM WALLINGFORD is written by my counterpart on the column - Stephen Knight

As Published in the Record Journal Sunday May 30, 2010

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Tomorrow is Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor those who sacrificed their lives in the service of our country. Over the years, while the day has lost some of its solemnity, it has somewhat evolved into a second Veterans Day, where we not only honor those no longer with us but extend gratitude to those who are. This is entirely appropriate, and, to that end, I would like to excerpt a speech I gave on Veterans Day of 2007: “We are the most fortunate, the most blessed people on earth. We live in the United States of America. I have never been able to say United States of America without thinking what incredible good fortune that is. Never in human history has there been a society of such astonishing opportunity, of such unparalleled freedom and such breathtaking abundance as what we enjoy here. And the bedrock, the foundation of all that makes America great is the essential goodness, dignity and generosity of the American people.”

“We are here today to honor and thank the finest examples of those traits: those citizens among us who have answered the call and continue to answer the call to serve in the armed forces of the United States. From Valley Forge to Lake Champlain to Gettysburg to Verdun to Normandy to the Chosin Reservoir to Hue to Kuwait to Bagdhad to Kandahar and countless other places in the world, the American soldier has stood and defended this country with honor and distinction, first with the ferocity and determination to win the battle and then the kindness and compassion to win the hearts and minds of those they have liberated. They have always conducted themselves under the rules of international law and those of common humanity, and have been quick to condemn those incredibly few within their ranks who would stain that record of honor. And in their service, the American veteran — whether protecting the freedom of hundreds of millions of human beings in peacetime or liberating many hundreds of millions from tyranny and enslavement in wartime, has been a positive force throughout the world and has brought credit to this country.”

“But there is one special trait that, in my mind, makes the American soldier, sailor or airman an almost unique figure in the history of conflict. In almost every armed conflict you can name, one side was pursuing conquest and the other side was defending itself from that subjugation or annihilation. The defenders had a personal stake in the outcome, that oftentimes being survival itself.”

“But if you examine the history of the wars in which America has been involved, especially those in the 20th and 21st century, you see our involvement not only to protect the security and interests of the United States but in a larger sense to defend the concept that liberty and freedom are a basic right of all of humanity. To have risked their lives in defense of this high ideal and not just the protection of their homeland puts the US military men and women in a category unique to human history.”

“Let me give you a quote to illustrate my point from Nicholas Sarkozy, the president of France, speaking to our Congress [on November 8, 2007], ‘…America did not teach men the idea of freedom; she taught them how to practice it. And she fought for this freedom whenever she felt it to be threatened somewhere in the world. It was by watching America grow that men and women understood that freedom was possible.”

“What made America great was her ability to transform her own dream into hope for all mankind.”

“The men and women of my generation heard their grandparents talk about how in 1917, America saved France at a time when it had reached the final limits of its strengths, which it had exhausted in the most absurd and bloodiest of wars.”

“The men and women of my generation heard their parents talk about how in 1944, America returned to free Europe from the horrifying tyranny that threatened to enslave it.”

“Fathers took their sons to see the vast cemeteries where, under thousands of white crosses so far from home, thousands of young Americans lay who had fallen not to defend their own freedom but the freedom of all others, not to defend their own families, their own homeland, but to defend humanity as a whole.’ ” To view photographs of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France where 9,387 US servicemen are buried is to understand Memorial Day. The sight renders one speechless at the thought of such heroism. That we are privileged to call these people our countrymen is an honor beyond words.”

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