Memorial Day Speech 2012 in Phelps, New York
Phelps Memorial Day 2012
By Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Harper, USMC (Ret)
Thank you for the nice introduction. Elizabeth and I are honored to be here. You probably noticed as we rode in the convertible that I had a different wave than my wife. She is from England and uses the Queen’s wave, while I use the western Pennsylvania – Hi, how you doing wave. She, however, probably knows more US History than most of us because in 2008 she became a naturalized US Citizen. I am very proud of her for that accomplishment, and I relearned some US History and Geography along the way. If you ever want to remind yourself of what it means to be a US Citizen go to a Naturalization Ceremony. 1000s of people from all over the world want to become US Citizens every year because WE are the greatest Nation in the world!!! And we are the greatest Nation because of the Heroes we are here to honor today.
One of my favorite movies is “A Few Good Men.” I like the movie not just because it is about Marines, but for this one scene. Demi Moore’s character is asked about the Marines she is defending in a court-martial:
Lt. Weinberg: Why do you like them so much?
Her reply is: Because they stand upon a wall and say, “Nothing’s going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.”
The men and women we are here to honor today stood upon a wall and said to us “Nothing’s going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.” Men and women from our community and every walk of life - They are our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, loved-ones, and community members! They took an oath to “support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. They made a commitment to us that they would protect our country and our way of life. We are here to remember those heroes who fought and died honoring that commitment; we are here to remember their dedication to duty and country; and we are here to remind ourselves that we are the beneficiaries of their great sacrifice.
And, what do these young men and women expect in return for their loyal service? What is our commitment to them? Well, the essence of loyalty is reciprocity, and loyalty is a highly regarded value to the military – We pride ourselves on not leaving a fallen soldier behind on the battlefield. Those of us who served enter combat knowing and trusting this; it is important to our morale and our Nations’ warfighting capability. While we are willing to give our lives for our Country, if we fall on foreign soil, we want to know that we will be brought back home to be buried with our loved ones, and to be remembered by our friends, family, community, and Nation – that is all these young men and women want from us– to be remembered.
In addition to those whom we know paid the ultimate price for our freedom, let us not forget those who are listed as POWs and MIAs. They also made a commitment to us, and honored that commitment, and we must not rest until each and every one of them is accounted for.
As we celebrate this Memorial Day, and enjoy the festivities, the food, and the weather, remember that there are young men and women who are now standing upon “a wall” in Iraq, and Afghanistan defending our Nation, and our rights “to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The best and the brightest of our Nation, and of our community who are saying to us: “Nothings going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.”
And, in the future when the war clarion is sounded and the battle cry is heard, we will ask our young men and women to once more march towards the sound of gunfire and enter into harm’s way. And they will! They will stand upon a wall as men and women have done for 236 years, and they will say to us, “Nothing’s going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.”
They will do their duty, and some will make the ultimate sacrifice for our Freedoms. Freedom is not free!!!
Now you may be asking yourself, “What can I do?”
1. Remember those who fought and died for our freedoms, and our way of life. Remember their devotion to duty and country, and their sacrifice. Remember that everyday is Memorial Day for their families, friends, and loved ones!!
2. When you see a man or woman in uniform in Wegmans, at the airport, in a gas station, take a moment, stop them and say, “Thank you for your service.”
3. When you see a veteran - we can be easily recognized by the way we carry ourselves, the way we express ourselves, and our hats, stop them and say, “Thank you for your service
4. Finally, continue to support our Nations’ efforts to account for and recover those who are still listed as MIA/POWs. Let’s bring them all home!!!
These simple gestures will make a difference in the lives of those who have given so much to our Country, a difference in your life, a difference in our community, and a difference in our Nation.
Let’s Keep Our Nation GREAT!!!!!
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.