By Brian Borneman
Townsend resident, American Legion Fire Squad member, firefighter
We once again gather as a nation to remember those who have laid their lives down in service to our country.
In 1868 Commander in Chief or the Grand Army of the republic issued General order No.11 which read in part:
“The 30th of May is designated for the purposes of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.”
So began the tradition of what we know as Memorial Day.
Those of us who are still breathing cannot repay the sacrifice of those who gave their lives defending us, but at the very least we can and we must remember them.
Oliver Wendell Holmes called this “our most sacred holiday” and he urged that “we not ponder with sad thoughts the passing of our heroes, but rather ponder their legacy-the life they made possible for us by their commitment and pain.”
At its core, Memorial Day has always commemorated the universal all-encompassing understanding of, “no greater love than this does any man have, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Since the first Americans took up arms at Lexington and Concord in 1775, more than 1 million service men and women have paid with their lives, the cost of keeping America free.
Since 1868, Memorial Day has been a day our nation gathered for ceremonies, decorated graves, held parades, laid wreaths played taps and recounted stories of the fallen.
Men like Maj. Charles Joseph Loring, U.S. Air Force. Maj. Loring, a POW in Europe during World War II, continued his service during the Korean War as an F-80 pilot. On Nov. 22 1952, Maj. Loring’s aircraft was hit repeatedly by ground fire as he was dive-bombing enemy gun positions.
Instead of withdrawing, Charles Loring made a decision to sacrifice his life for his country. At 400 feet, he aimed his F-80 directly at the gun positions that were threatening other pilots and friendly ground forces. He began another dive-bomb. He deliberately crashed into the enemy emplacements and eliminated the threat. For his actions Maj. Loring was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
In some places these ceremonies continue as we see here today. Your presence here demonstrates that you understand the true meaning of Memorial Day. You come to honor our fallen comrades. Men and women that gave so much that most of us never new. You understand that on Memorial Day, we honor the ideals, values and principals, those servicemen and women and died defending.
Sadly, many Americans have lost this connection with their history. They have been protected for so long and take our freedoms for granted. For a growing percentage of Americans Memorial Day is just another three-day weekend. Friends and families still gather, but for many of them the patriotic core — the spirit of remembrance — is absent.
We go about our daily routine with out very much to remind us of the sacrifices being made for us. For the most part since Sept. 11, very little has changed day to day for America. Which I believe is a testament to the brave men and women who serve all around the globe.
Recently our armed forces passed 1,000 killed in action in Afghanistan, bringing the total for Afghanistan and Iraq to more than 5,500 killed. That’s over half the population of this town think about that for awhile.
I have three good friends serving in Afghanistan as we speak. Not a day goes by that I do not think of them and the sacrifices their families are making for my family and indeed yours.
Could anything be more contradictory than the lives of our soldiers?
They love America, so they spend long years far from her shores. They revere freedom, so they sacrifice their own that we may be free. They defend our right to live as individuals, yet yield their individuality in that cause.
Perhaps most amazing of all, they value life, and so bravely ready themselves to die in the service of our country.
So in closing I would ask each of us to always remember, to never forget the gift of freedom we all enjoy. Take time this weekend to pause and reflect. Talk to your children about what those flags mean rippling in the breeze over 600 veteran’s graves in this town alone. Explain to them that we are lucky enough to live in the greatest nation on earth, and this country has nothing to apologize for. That no nation in the history of mankind has done more to further the human condition or has brought freedom to more places.
And for these great gifts all we need to do is never forget and always be humbled by their generosity
Thank you all for coming enjoy your weekend. God bless you and God bless America.