Before He Left For Iraq
This page was posted on July 2, 2006. I had this on my site a couple of years ago. My brother called and asked if he could use parts of the speech for his Sunday School Class today. I started reading it and choked a bit. This is as appropriate today, and more so, as it was some three years ago when I gave the talk at Veteran's Day observances in Clarksdale and Tunica.
Call it ego or for reasons I cannot explain, I post it again.
In time of war, there are two kinds of Americans. The first stands on the sidewalk and waves the flag and shouts words of support for the country as the troops march by and off to war. The second is the young man or woman who without much fanfare steps off the sidewalk, joins the parade and commits himself or herself to the country. These words are for the brave men and women who have chosen to step off the sidewalk.
Before he left for Iraq, a young soldier implored, "Please, donít let them forget about us."
Many of our men and women in uniform are coming home. Many are not and more are leaving home to go. In time, as in all wars, the soldier we supported in time of conflict will be forgotten in time of peace. From top to bottom, they are the men and women who carry on their shoulders the pride of a nation. Our memories of them may never die, but eventually, they will fade away.
On the back of our memorial at the Clarksdale City Auditorium are the words, "For those who fought for it, life has a flavor the protected will never know."
You know all too well the first story of the American Patriot, wrote General Douglas McArthur. He continues, "The story is one of the American Soldier. To be one is the birthright of every American citizen. In his love and loyalty for God, country, and family, he gives all that human life can give. He has written our history in foreign lands." From Corrigedor to Khe Sahn; from Bellieu Woods to Panama; from Inchon to Baghdad, he has guaranteed our freedom at home. (Italics McArthur's words)
"From one end of the world to the other, the American Soldier has drained deep the cup of courage. In staggering columns on a long, weary march, through bellowing clouds turned up by miles of mechanized cavalry, from dusk to dawn, covered with mud, chilled by rain, the American Soldier advances to his objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God. We do not know the dignity of his birth," says McArthur, "but we know the glory of his death."
With their blood they have stained the soils of Tarawa, Kasserine Pass, Hamburger Hill, Pusan, and Fallujah. With their sweat they built bridges between cultures; with their tears, they held the children and buried the dead starved by fanatic dictators.
They went to war to fight for their country, secure freedom, or because their fathers did before them. But, they fought the battles for the guy on their left and on their right.
This is the American Soldier who carries on his shoulders the pride of our country.
And this is the second story of an American Patriot. She is the veteran who drops a tear each time the flag is raised; who struggles to right himself when the National Anthem is played; who heard the call of his country before his country ever called.
She is the Mother who mourns her son. Between his high school diploma and Purple Heart there is the picture of him she dusts every day.
The American Patriot is the wife who takes her children to school each morning, goes to work, pays the bills, and goes to sleep at night, wondering when she will lay next to her soldier/husband again and what he will be like when he returns.
He is the father who proudly tells anyone who will listen "My daughter graduated high school last year. Last week she drove a Humvee into Baghdad.
And the American Patriots are the sons and daughters of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who know only that Mommy or Daddy are in some distant country protecting the lives of children just like them.
They sacrifice for us. Because they are American patriots who heeded the words of President John Kennedy "to bear any burden, pay any price, support any friend, oppose any foe to insure the place of liberty".
These are American Patriots. They bear the burden of wars long after the peace is signed and the troops are home. For them, life does indeed have a flavor the protected will never know.
Running through their lives is a thread that connects God, Country, Family. They know that without God, there is no country, and without country there is no place to raise a family in peace. To be an American Patriot, therefore, one must be willing to sacrifice to preserve our way of life to worship God, honor country, and raise a family. The American Patriot chooses to give up the trappings of the good life to secure for us the values of what makes life good.
So I ask you to remember that young man in Iraq, the daughter in Kosovo, the father in the Philippines, the son in Afghanistan, and the Mother, the wife, father, son and daughter at home. I ask you to never forgetÖthe veteran of the Ardennes Forest, the Sailor at Pearl Harbor, the private at the Chosin Reservoir, the grunt at Khe Sahn, the nurse in Desert Storm, and the airman flying patrol over our cities. For all of them duty, honor, and country are the flavors of life. They saw their duty to serve with honor the country they love. For many of us, we will never know their sacrifice; we will never truly taste the flavors of life they have won for us.
We are the protected and we owe them our gratitude. There will always be a land of freedom because there are free men, women, and children who courageously volunteer to wear the mantle of an American patriot.
General Douglas McArthur in his closing remarks to Congress lamented that Old Soldiers never die, they simply fade away. Donít let our soldiers in Kuwait and Iraq or anywhere an American soldier is asked to go fade away. Remember them through your letters, and your prayers for their families. We know them well. They are our neighbors, coworkers, and friends. They are American Patriots preserving our birthright to worship God, honor country, and raise our families in peace. Before he left for Iraq, a young soldier implored, "Please, donít let them forget about us." Remember them. For you and me and our families, they have volunteered to take the field of battle. Be grateful they live among us.
Thank you and God Bless the United States of America