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My Memorial Day Thoughts Print E-mail
Written by Ray Fairman   
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You know sometimes I get a bit frustrated with our country. Oh I love it all right, but it discourages me when I think about our history and freedoms and how much they really cost and then realize that we allow congress and the greeting card industry to tell us we only have one day a year to remember our deceased veterans, one day to remember our living veterans, one day to remember our mothers, one day to remember our country's birthday, one day to remember our fathers, (Many of whom fought for the freedoms we experience today) and God help us if we forget the three day Memorial day New and Used Car Sale! Enough of my ranting and raving let me get down to my message. I think I'll call it: A Week Full Of Sundays.  Click Read More to follow along.

Semper Fi

My Thoughts, For Whatever They May Be Worth

One of the most famous speeches in history, and one that I feel truly reflects the ideals of a Memorial Day message, was not delivered on Memorial Day. It was delivered on November 19 by then United States President Abraham Lincoln.

You are, I am sure, at least somewhat aware of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, allegedly scribbled on the back of an envelope on his way to the Gettysburg Pennsylvania battlefield where he was about to dedicate the Soldiers' National Cemetery.

The exact wording of Lincoln's message is, as are so many facts in our nation's history, debated by scholars and historians to this very day. But nobody who is familiar with its content will argue that the sentiment of that message was directed at honoring the memory of the military veterans of both sides.

His phrase “We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this,” Is reflective of our gathering here today to remember our honored military dead.

However, we should focus on the next line of his address even more closely.

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

He then pointed out that “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. “

Lincoln was at that dedication to honor the memory of and not merely the remains of dedicated military men of both sides who participated in one of the most tragic of wars this country has ever known. He was there to honor and perpetuate their indomitable spirit. A spirit that thought dampened by blood could never be vanquished.

The heartbreak of that commemoration ceremony was that it recalled a battle that epitomized the tragedy of our own American Civil War. When men from either side fell in any Civil War battle each casualty who fell was an American fighting man. Giving us the highest total of American combat casualties in a single conflict that we have ever known. 497,821.

Today, On Memorial Day, some of us will take the time to gather here to remember fallen comrades, wherever their remains may be, in cemeteries, beneath the sea, on unknown or unremembered battlefields, or distributed gently by fair winds over the land they loved and defended or as in the case of my own father on the following seas which guard our eastern and western shores.

As we gather here, it saddens me somewhat to think that it takes and act of congress to make us take the time from our busy schedules to recall the sacrifices of these men and women who answered their country's call to arms.

You may not agree with me, but I am of the opinion that the mission of the armed forces is not to control politics because that can lead to government instability, military coups and dictatorships. I also don't see the mission of congress as that of trying to run the military, the results of which I see as biased, inept and catastrophic. So the sooner the leaders of both those professions realize their proprietary missions and learn to honestly respect each other cooperate the better off all Americans will be.

Besides, I was taught in church that if you don't consider every day to be Sunday then you might as well not consider the first day of the week Sunday either.

That's why I feel that way about Memorial Day, Veterans Day and our other patriotic holidays as well. It seems to me that we as a country need to consider every day a day to remember the patriotism and sacrifices that the members of our Armed Forces exhibit on our behalf.

I know at least a few of you must have heard some form of the following statements during your lifetimes.

You see it is not the pastor or priest
who guarantees our religious freedom.
It is the veteran.

It is not the reporter or news anchor
who guarantees the freedom of the press.
It is the veteran

It is not the politician
who guarantees us the right to vote.
It is the veteran

It is not the protester
who guarantees us the right to peacefully assemble.
It is the veteran

And, it is the veteran and not the lawyer who us guarantees the right to a fair trial


It is therefore so vitally important that we continue to cherish, constantly revitalize and convey the memories and freedoms provided by our nations veterans to succeeding generations of freedom loving Americans, with the admonition that “Freedom Isn't really Free.”

You see, around about us lay only the mortal remains of those whom we choose to honor and remember here today. Their spirits will live on forever in the hearts and minds of this country's citizens; only, if we ensure that the fruits of their patriotism and self-sacrifice are passed on to future generations by those of us who are still here to transport them across the bridges of time. Bridges we must build if we are to ensure that the memories of their contributions and the memories of events past are carried forward to those future generations.

All to often I see dwindling crowds at parades and fewer and smaller celebrations on America's patriotic holidays. I feel at times that too many Americans have forgotten or have never really understood that we are at war. Instead they are only focused at being at work, the mall or the supermarket or out on the golf course.

Friends let me remind you, as you need to remind many others… We are all Americans… and America is at war! There are no malls or golf courses or supermarkets in Iraq or Afghanistan, but there are a lot of dedicated American men and women answering the patriotic call to face evil and danger to help many down trodden people pursue their own dreams of freedom and liberty.

I would not have had to say that in WWII America, but ever since that conflict concluded, I think our desire to remain strong and free has become diluted or at least overshadowed by an international feeling of “I'm OK, You're OK.”

I am sorry if I offend some of you, but after traveling abroad and facing this country's enemies for nearly three and a half decades, I may not think America is perfect, but I do feel she is head and shoulders above whoever is in second place.

I for one do not believe Isolationism is a valid international strategy.

Two very famous people in history have prophetically espoused the philosophy of our country's demise from within, Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Stalin.

Lincoln said no foreign soldier would ever set foot aggressively on US soil. He inferred that if our country should ever fall, it would be destroyed from within.

Stalin echoed this prophecy nearly a hundred years later during the embryonic stages of the cold war, when he said that the US was too strong to ever be attacked from the outside. He also inferred that we would have to be destroyed from the inside and then and only then would we fall like a ripe plumb into the hands of our adversaries.

In the Marine Corps we learn a great deal about our history. That is because those who fail to learn from history are generally doomed to repeat it. So when we as a government of the people choose to again face the same trials we faced in the past, we should generally expect the same consequences.

Many of our veterans have fought and some have given their lives to write America's history. The least we can do is respect their sacrifices by acknowledging and learning from both their victories and their defeats.

The objective of our current terroristic adversaries and the way they have chosen to wage war can be viewed as an attempt at attacking our national invulnerability and targeting for destruction, our morale, dedication and perseverance on the home front thus devastating the principles, traditions and ideals that built this country and insured our own precious freedoms. Surely their actions are an attempt to weaken America's resolve from within.

One of the reasons I feel so strongly about military activities being administered by military leaders and not politicians is because no one hates war more than a person who has “faced the elephant.” A phrase that some folks in history have used when referring to the act of experiencing combat. And, no one hates to send young men and now women into combat more than a person who has commanded troops in battle.

It is a fact, however, that as long as evil exists in this world, wars will be fought, servicemen and women will die in combat and here at home families, friends and comrades will grieve these losses.

I am also a man who cannot separate the support of the soldier from the support of the war. When a country goes to war it is and always will be the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, not politicians who are the ones who will go into combat. I know from personal experience that these patriots will fight for their honor, their beliefs and each other far more ferociously than they will ever fight for politics or even those of us at home.

That is why so many of them who are wounded are so highly motivated to return to their units and their “brothers”. Yes, The spirit of brotherhood thrives and runs deep within the ranks of this nation's military forces as well it should.

This type of patriotism, dedication, Honor, Courage and Commitment has formed the backbone of our country and provided it's strength since it's birth.

Our veterans, living, dead and those yet to don a uniform will always deserve the very best support we at home can provide. They must eternally occupy a paramount place in our lives, for they truly are the spirit of our nation.

I don't want to take any more of your valuable time this afternoon. Besides I have frequently been told that the best speakers are often the shortest. Since I can't do anything about my height, I will start to bring this to a close.

I just want to let you know a little about my family background so you can get a perspective on what makes me the way I am.

I am the son of a WWII and Korean War Marine M/Sgt. I entered the Marine Corps at age17 and served 10 Years of USMC Active duty with tours in RVN and then I transferred to the USMCR for an additional 23 years, while I pursued a civilian law enforcement career. During my reserve military years I spent some time serving jointly with US Army, and US Air Force Units. I was called back to active duty for a couple of operations including Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I served 18 years of enlisted service reaching the rank of Gunnery Sergeant and 15 years as a Warrant Officer. My wife served as an Army Reserve Nurse First Lieutenant and my daughter is an Army Nurse Captain, My son is an Army Reserve Major and a West Point Graduate, My Son-In-Law is an Army Doctor who served as a Major in Kosovo for nine months and for the first 15 months of OIF in Baghdad. We in my family take very seriously the words that follow:

This is my country! Land of my birth!
This is my country! Grandest on earth!
This is my country! Land of my choice!
This is my country! Hear my proud voice!
I pledge thee my allegiance, America, the bold,
For you are my country to have and to hold
and to defend.


I am going to end now with something I wrote after I served my last tour in Vietnam and entered my subsequent career in law enforcement where I continue to serve today, only now as a Police Chaplain.

It took me several years to finally get my feelings close to the way I wanted to express them after experiencing all the chaos and combat I endured during in my generation's war in Vietnam. Even though I have applied the education I acquired pursuing a couple of postgraduate degrees at night, I still don't feel like it is finished or it ever will be.

I have written different terminal verses for the different services, but I beg your indulgence as today I choose for obvious reasons to use the Marine Corps ending.


The words that follow can be applied to the experiences of all my brothers and sisters who have shared their time with me in combat. They express in the end a hope for this country and all mankind.

A PATRIOT'S PRAYER


WHO AM I? A CHILD OF WAR, A VIETNAM HERO, OR AN AMERICAN WHORE?

WAS I A FOOLISH, SUCKERED SOUL, OR AN AMERICAN PATRIOT, PROUD AND BOLD?

WHAT MAKES ME DIFFERENT FROM YOU, OR YOU? AM I NOT LIKE YOU, OF YOU, YOU?

SURE I KILLED. FOR A CAUSE I THOUGHT WAS JUST. BUT VICTOR OR VICTIM, ALL TURN TO DUST.

WHO DIED BY MY HAND? NVA, VIETCONG, ALL HARDCORE. BUT NO INNOCENT BEINGS, AND NO SPOILS OF WAR.

REMEMBER THE BLAST, THE ARTILLERY'S ROAR? GRENADES, AND RIFLES, AND THOSE DEADLY CLAYMORES?

REMEMBER THE CHILDREN BORN UNTO WAR? ONCE THEIR INNOCENCE LOST, JUST TROPHIES OF WAR.

OFT' BAPTIZED IN GORE, WHEN MADNESS REIGNED, STILL WE CRIED OUT FOR MORE, WHILE BEARING THE PAIN.

THEY PINNED SOME MEDALS ON OUR CHESTS, WITH A CARELESS NOD, NO MORE, NO LESS.

ALONE WE STOOD, APART FROM THE REST, WERE WE THE WORST, OR WERE WE THE BEST?

WAIT! DO YOU HEAR THE JUNGLE, THE ROCKETS, THE RAIN, REMEMBER DEATHS EVIL MASK, ETCHED WITH PAIN?

SPEAK TO ME SOFTLY, AND DO NOT STARE, AND SAVE YOUR JUDGEMENT, YOUR PITY, YOUR PRAYER.

FOR EVERY TIME MAN TRIES TO RISE, ABOVE EVIL'S STRONG AND BINDING TIES

ANOTHER PATRIOT WILL GO, AND LEAD THE FIGHT, TO SPREAD THE HOLY GLOW, OF FREEDOMS LIGHT.

HE'LL SEND FREEDOMS EAGLE, SOARING HIGH, 'CROSS THE HALLOWED BREADTH, OF HEAVEN'S SKIES.

AND HERE AT HOME, WE'LL SIT AND WAIT, AS AMERICAN PATRIOTS MEET THEIR FATE.

SOME WILL LIVE, AND SOME WILL DIE, AS FREEDOM'S EAGLE, MOURNS AND CRIES.

BUT THOSE WHO SHED THEIR BLOOD AND TEARS WILL EARN THEIR PLACE ON HEAVEN'S TIERS.

FROM OPPRESSION'S CRIES, THESE MEN WON'T HIDE, BUT FACE EACH CHALLENGE, FILLED WITH PRIDE.

WHO ARE THESE PATRIOTS? THEIR NAMES I MEAN. THE EAGLE'S GUARDIANS ARE CALLED

"MARINES".



God Bless America!
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