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Memorial Day 2013 

(Presented at Luck WI Memorial Day Celebration)

Nestled along the beautiful shores of Hawaii, the Waikiki Natatorium stands as a reminder of the 10,000 men who volunteered to protect the US Territory of Hawaii during World War I. The memorial now crumbles after years of neglect, budget cuts and the deteriorating effects of salt water and time.

Tourists and locals alike once flocked to the memorial to enjoy its beauty and to reflect on the sacrifice of these brave men. However, the building now gets but a fleeting glance from passersby before they move on to enjoy the sun, the surf and the beach. Many have no idea what the building is for, others simply don’t care. Plans were unvieled in early May, 2013 to tear down the memorial and develop the prime, beach front property for recreational and commercial purposes.

The story of the Waikiki Natatorium is being repeated across the country. Memorials once built to remind us of the over 1.1 million men and women who have given their lives to win and protect the freedom enjoyed by our nation, as well as many other nations around the world, are neglected at best and usually deteriorating with little regard for their significance. The memory of the sacrifice of human lives has become lost in the cares and concerns of the modern world.

The real tragedy, however, is not the deterioration of these structures of mortar and wood. The real tragedy lies in the fact that Memorial Day, which began in 1868 as a day to remember those who have given the ultimate gift of life for freedom, has become a holiday of picnics and leisure. A defining characteristic of our American culture is celebration and BBQ’s. However, while this in itself is not wrong, we must never allow ourselves forget the sacrifice the men and women of our armed forces have given for us.

Former President Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Now more than ever, we realize the fragile state of peace in our nation and our world. Now, more than ever we need to not only remember what these men and women did for our country, we need to learn from them the importance of standing for the principles of freedom and justice that have always been a hallmark of the United States of America.

Normally, we measure legacy by the passing of time and the number of accomplishments one has in their lifetime. But these men and women left us a legacy of another kind. If you look at the dates on many of the stones of remembrance, for our veteran’s in cemeteries across our nation, you will soon realize that far too many of them were taken from us at too young of an age.  They weren’t given the opportunity to live long years and develop to their full potential. We often say these men and women paid the ultimate sacrifice but we too paid a huge price. We are the ones who didn’t get to see our little boys and girls grow to their full potential; we are the ones who never got to meet the fathers and mothers and grandchildren they would bring into this world.  We are the ones who lost friends and neighbors and classmates to the cruel realities of conflict.

Thankfully, there were many others that were fortunate enough to return to us. They have raised their families and lived productive lives in our communities. Some have suffered, and continue to suffer physical and emotional scars as a result of their sacrifice. Let us use today to remember, not only those who have gone before us, but those who are still in our midst and those who are currently putting their lives on the line for us every day so that our freedom will continue to be a reality and not just a memory.

There five lessons we can learn from those who have gone before us. Lessons they lived every day of their lives; lessons that continue to make this nation the greatest nation on earth. The lessons we can learn from our veterans spell the word SERVE because the one thing that makes us great as an American people is our willingness and desire to serve each other. Each of these qualities are qualities all of us should endeavor to practice in our homes, our schools and our communities.

  1. Selflessness: They believed in themselves.

The “S” in serve stands for SELFLESS. People who think of others do so because they believe in themselves strongly enough to realize their worth comes not from what they can get, but what they can give. They live out in reality the old adage that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.” All of us have been touched from time to time by pictures of soldiers carrying young children, caring for the elderly and helping their comrades.

Selfless people gain from realizing the best gift they can give themselves and each other is the gift of service. Service based on our desire to give and not to receive monetary gain.

  1. Embrace: They believed in their cause

The ‘E’ in serve stands for EMBRACE. Embracing reminds us that the men and women of our military believed in their cause. This cause they believed in was not the battlefield for no one wants to go to war. The cause that drove these brave souls was a belief in freedom, the sanctity of life, and the right for all mankind to be treated as equals.

Each of us needs to embrace the freedoms they fought for by working to make our communities places of safety, respect and acceptance.

  1. Resolved: They believed they could make a difference

The “R” in serve stands for RESOLVED. The men and women who gave their lives in our military did so because they believed they could make a difference, not only at the local level, but globally. That same resolve continues today. In many of the nations where the US has served, schools have been built, roads improved and social institutions developed. They went, and still go, firmly believing they can achieve something great.

We too need to truly believe that our God-given gifts were given to us so that we can make a difference in our corner of the world.

  1. Value: They believed in the value of others more than themselves

The ‘V’ in serve stands for VALUE. The American soldier has proven throughout history that they value life and freedom for others more than for themselves. To value others doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with them socially, culturally or in areas of faith, but it does mean that each of us has God-given qualities that must be preserved. Freedom can not happen without a commitment to valuing the sanctity of life.

  1. Encouragement: They made a difference

The ‘E’ in serve stands for ENCOURAGEMENT. Encouragement is a double-sided coin. For the American soldier encouragement comes from a realization that they have made the world a better place to live. Freedom never comes without hard work, tenacity and risk. Our veterans lived that every day of their lives. Those who returned have continued to serve this nation well.

The other side of the coin of encouragement is our part. We have the opportunity today to honor those who have gone before us with a moment of silence this afternoon at 3:00. To spend just 60 seconds thanking Almighty God for the freedom we have as a result of their sacrifice. We have an opportunity today to thank those in our midst who have served this nation in the past, some who still bear the scars of their service. We have an opportunity today and into the future to thank those who are currently serving at home and abroad with our prayers and our support, and to remember their families who wait at home, praying for their safe return.

As he neared the end of his life and looked towards his own death, the Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy and he wrote these words. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

These words could well be the inscription on every tomb of the American Soldier. They have fought the good fight. You have finished the course set before you and our continued freedom proves that. You have kept the faith and the freedom to express that faith. Not every battle was won. As long as mankind exists there will be conflict. But you fought the good fight. You ran the race well, and for that we express our deepest gratitude.

I found this poem on the internet and was unable to give credit where credit is due, but I share this with you in closing:

I do not know your name – Nor for which battle you died.

I do not know your home, nor the tears that were cried.

I do not know where you rest – Nor the promise broken.

I do not know your uniform, and your fears lay unspoken.

But, I know your spirit exists – That your courage is admired,

and your sacrifice is honored by each soul that’s inspired.

And I offer you from my heart, Thank you, to guardians unknown,

for offering yourselves for all of us, that we may keep freedom… Our home.
Bless you!!!

Thank you once again for allowing me the honor of joining you in this time of remembrance. Thank you to all those veterans in our midst and to their families for your sacrifice. And lastly, may God Bless America.

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