I was privilged to give an address at a Memorial Day commemeration in my home town, Newberg, Oregon. I've posted my remarks below.
Memorial Day Remarks
Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel), US Army Reserve, Retired
Memorial Day, May 28, 2012
Fellow veterans, currently serving military members, family members, families and friends of the fallen, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen:
It’s an honor for me to be invited to address you on this day when we remember those who have given their all in the service of their country.
My father-in-law was a private man. He lived in
He had a certain number of television programs he liked, among them WWF, World Wrestling Federation. And when it came to movies, two genres were his favorites: westerns and war movies. When he would watch the war movies, we’re talking WWII, he would sit there and cry. He shared only the most public of details about his life in the army during the war. He was pretty open that he got busted a couple of times, so even though he reached the rank of SGT, he didn’t stay there. He was a cook in the 1/1 CAV. I always understood that the tears he shed while watching those movies were a flow of healing to his soul.
In our nostalgic way our collective memory of our country’s involvement in WWII includes our motivation for being involved in the war. It was for the most noble of purposes: To save the world from the horrors of totalitarian regimes and to defend our "freedom", "prosperity," and “our way of life.” And yet in living rooms all across the country for more than 65 years, veterans, like my father-in-law, cried when they saw images of the war. Who could they talk with? For whatever reason, they confided the details of their memories only to other veterans.
I have learned then that there are different levels of perceived safety when it comes to sharing the stories of war. The entry level is to be a vet. Combat vets, airborne and Special Forces vets have a perceived higher level of trust.
Roderick drove a supply truck in
The pain for veterans of
For ten years I served as a part time chaplain in a
Even though I was deferred as a college and graduate student from serving in
In the years since World War II our military has been deployed for numerous interventions. We honor our veterans from
My last assignment was in
Some of our veterans from the current conflict are coming home with a new kind of injury, traumatic brain injuries, which are the result of explosions that literally crash the brain into the skull, leaving the brain with a serious injury akin to a concussion.
I want to acknowledge one more category of veterans and military personnel who have been and continue to be deployed in clandestine operations that are unknown to the public. For a time I lived at
Those military personnel who are involved in these secret missions are not authorized to wear combat patches and they are not awarded metals of honor. One of my friends told me that he couldn’t get the army to acknowledge some of the years he carried his own records. Still, these brave men and women put their lives at risk. We want to honor them today, even though they cannot stand up and tell us who they are.
Memorial Day has been set aside as a day to remember those who have given their lives for the sake of our national interests. I’ve expanded my thinking to include those veterans who have sacrificed a part of their lives, their physical or psychic bodies, and to include their families who offer their support. Today we have military personnel in more than 130 countries around the world.
My entire military career was in the Army Chaplaincy. My involvement in the military brought me into close contact with our brave and noble soldiers. In isolated places around the globe and in the combat zone, politico-ethical questions faded into the back ground. The concerns of the soldier, even in those faraway and dangerous places, were events at home, tragedy and illness, relationship breakups and deaths, missing the significant life steps of children, spouses, families and friends—births, first steps, school days, sports triumphs and defeats, graduations, birthdays, holidays.
Our veterans, and current serving military personnel, have paid and continue to pay a significant price. This price knows no national boundaries. Veterans of every nation who put their lives at risk often lose their lives or lose part of their bodies or souls. Suffering knows no national boundaries.
We gather today to pay tribute to those who laid down their lives and to say thank you for those who have sacrificed so much.
I long for a world at peace where we don’t subject our young people to the scars of war. While we await such a day, I pray for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen and offer a blessing to all who work to meet the needs of veterans.