A speech for Memorial Day

As I approach the end of my stint as a ”Community Columnist” I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you, the reader.

I applied for one of the openings that the Tribune Chronicle graciously provides because I am a person who believes in expressing my views. I am profoundly grateful to live in a country where one can voice his opinion without fear of reprisal.

Because we are Americans, we can criticize our country’s highest officials without having to worry about the heavy hand of government. There are so many countries where doing so requires uncommon bravery. And of course, there are countries where one simply cannot offer criticism.

So it is with this in mind, and the acknowledgment that Memorial Day is a time to remember how dear the price paid for my freedom was, that I include a small speech that I wrote when once asked to speak at a Memorial Day ceremony.

A note about writing in general and this small speech specifically: Writing is difficult for me. I sometimes agonize over what I write, searching for my exact thoughts and just the right words to convey them.

I never submit anything to the public on the day I write it, because too often I reread something I wrote the next day and throw it in the wastebasket. Imagine my surprise, then, when I sat down to write the Memorial Day speech and the words just came.

I think it was because I approached it by deeply searching my heart for what I felt. I wrote it in one quick sitting, and when I reread it the next day, I found it suitable. I hope you find it suitable as well:

”It’s not easy thinking about the fallen soldiers we honor today. Time steals from us our memories of them, and we know it is possible that years from now they may be forgotten. So we gather at our nation’s cemeteries today, as we do every year, to renew our promise to remember them and the price they paid.

”The circumstances surrounding their sacrifices were as varied as their backgrounds. Some served beneath steel decks in the heat of the South Pacific, and some in the frozen forests of Europe. Some fought scorned in the rice paddies of Vietnam and unrecognized on the hills of Korea.

”Their individual dramas played out against different backdrops as well: from world wars where everything was risked, to Somalia where success was measured in sacks of grain. Their struggles ranged from the brother-against-brother battles of the Civil War, to the almost remote control combat of the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

”Our images of them are very different as well. Families who lost loved ones remember them as children, far too young to go to war. Their images consist of training wheels, baseballs and high school proms. Their loss is more painful, because they didn’t know them as the soldiers they became.

”As veterans, we shared a different time in their lives. We were comrades in arms, off on faraway and dangerous adventures. Though our days and nights seemed to last forever, our time was short. We crammed the widest range of experiences into months, and grew to know and care for one another as families do.

”For us, they also remain forever young, but our memories are different. We remember them always in uniform; we remember their pride and their confidence.

”We know that we all will die. And when our time comes, death will find most of us weak and fragile; and although our lives may have advanced many causes, our deaths will advance none.

”For these soldiers it was different, both in their lives and their deaths, they helped advance the cause of liberty. And for that, we should be very grateful.”

”Perhaps Robert Green Ingersall said it best in a speech in 1876.

” ‘These heroes are dead. They died for liberty; they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless.’ ”

Moadus is a Girard resident. Email him at editorial@tribtoday.com.