Since this is the first time in several years I haven't been a speaker at one of the Memorial Day services, I figured I'd take the opportunity to publish the text of my last Memorial Day speech. Enjoy.
Memorial Day Speech (from 2008)
We are gathered here today to honor our comrades, friends, and family members who have given their lives in defense of our freedom.
In 1868, when General John Logan (the namesake of this county) officially proclaimed Memorial Day as May 30th of each year, he was recognizing the very human need to honor and remember our dead, to reconcile our hurts and come together to honor those who gave so much for us during the Civil War. To quote from General Logan's General Order No. 11 proclaiming Memorial Day:
Let us, then, at the time appointed gather round their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those who they have left among us ...From the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and all other actions between and after, brave men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice for us. We must remember them. We owe them a debt of honor that can never be repaid.
Over the years there have been changes, for better and worse, in the ways we observe Memorial Day. The attempts at healing of the post Civil War divisions by General Logan was the beginning. WWI led Moina Michael to respond to John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" with her own poem:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
And she went on to found the national poppy movement using the traditional red poppies to honor the blood of heroes spilled in our defense on Memorial Day. The late 1950's saw the beginning of the tradition of placing American flags on the individual graves of our fallen heroes. The fourth Monday in May was officially established by Congress as the date of remembrance in 1971. This service today continues this tradition of remembrance and honor.
Through all the changes, the importance and meaning of this day has not changed. It is the day we remember and honor those who have fallen for us. We must remember them. We owe them a debt of honor that can never be fully repaid. Let us honor and remember them today and throughout the year.