Cline Shares Thoughts On Memorial Day

Editor's note: With all of the local and regional Memorial Day events canceled this year, the traditional speeches by politicians won't be heard. Among those who would have been speaking at those events is Rep. Ben Cline, who has written the following speech for this year's holiday, and his office has asked that newspapers in his district share it with their readers.

Among our national treasures in Washington, DC stands the WWII Memorial - honoring those who fought and perished 75 years ago to liberate the world from tyranny and oppression. At the center of this hallowed site lies a wall bearing 4,000 stars symbolizing the 400,000 brave Americans who passed away in the United States’ fight for justice and freedom. However, these stars represent only a fraction of the nearly 3.7 million veterans interred in one of more than 140 national cemeteries.

Originally called Decoration Day, this day was set aside to commemorate those who died during the Civil War. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day, and in 1971, the day became a Federal Holiday.

Virginia and the Sixth Congressional District have a long history of heroism and the giving of blood and treasure of its sons and daughters. There are few places as steeped in the sacrifices of those who fought our Nation’s battles.

From Arlington to Norfolk, from Winchester to Lynchburg, and from Manassas to the Shenandoah Valley, the Commonwealth can claim the mantle of not only being the cradle of democracy but also the arsenal of freedom.

Memorial Day provides us a chance to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  It reminds me of what President 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.”

On my way into Washington I regularly pass Arlington, the Vietnam Wall, the Korean and the World War II Memorials, and it serves as a sobering reminder of the debt we owe to those who came before us in our Nation’s struggles and who sacrificed so that we may enjoy all our Republic offers.

Today my thoughts are also of that Gold Star wife, husband, son or daughter who said goodbye to their loved ones and watched as they boarded a ship or plane to deploy to hostile areas never knowing if that was the last hug, the last wave, the last kiss, or the last goodbye. And that same family getting a knock at their door or seeing the bike messenger deliver the Western Union telegraph afraid to open the door knowing what that visit brought. 

The year Twenty-Twenty marks the 19th year that the United States has been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan with more than 7,000 casualties suffered.  Also, in places like Africa and Syria, our troops are engaged in fighting and dying in the name of freedom. Unfortunately, the news of these sacrifices has moved from the front to the back pages of our Nation’s papers.

Today let us resolve that any causality wearing our Nation’s uniform be remembered for their sacrifice and bravery and not relegated to a brief mention or passing comment.  The word hero often gets misused, but when it comes to those we are here to honor, we should never forget the words of Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. While given at the dedication ceremony of the battlefield, Lincoln capsulated the meaning of today.

“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 here 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."

May God continue to bless our Nation and produce those willing to stand in the gap and sacrifice for those they never met but are bound to through a shared American heritage all in the name of freedom.

 

The News-Gazette

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