As difficult as my working life has been at times, one thing is true: I’ve never had to face enemy fire.
I’ve never had to quickly assess the risk threat and ask my people to advance into certain combat – and possible death.
I’ve never been far from home, hungry and exhausted, in a strange land with a different language and differing customs carrying an eighty pound pack through sandstorms, snowstorms, rainstorms over mountains, through rivers, in jungles.
I haven’t been on a small boat in a big ocean, looking for the incoming weaponry that could sink my vessel.
I’ve not been in an airplane, tracing a safe route through enemy flak.
No, I’ve not been tested in these ways.
And so today and every day I honor those who served and those who gave their lives in service to their country.
It’s awe-inspiring and humbling to consider the men and the women who simply saw a need and filled it. Who went above and beyond not only because they could but because – in one split second – they knew they had to do something to save the lives of others.
I’m especially moved by those who never expected to be in combat but found themselves there. The nurses, the quartermasters, the cooks – those people who stepped up when duty called, and did what needed to be done.
Some of these people, in fact, lie in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery – their names are not known but their heroism is never forgotten.
All soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen – they are valuable beyond measure, and stand shoulder to shoulder in a line of service which leads from our nation’s earliest days directly to today.
At the Gettysburg battlefield over 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln said:
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Today, I honor the last full measure of devotion of so many. Those honored dead who bravely did what so many of us have not done.
It is to them this day is dedicated, with respect and honor for their great sacrifice and the great sacrifice of the families they left behind.
photo credit: James Tourtellotte