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Memorial Day By Andy Kline

I wrote this speech and read it at the Watsontown Memorial Day Ceremony as the guest speaker on Memorial Day, May 31, 2010. Good morning and welcome. Thank you for taking the time to be here with us today. I am honored to speak today in my hometown, beside and among my fellow comrades. My purpose

I wrote this speech and read it at the Watsontown Memorial Day Ceremony as the guest speaker on Memorial Day, May 31, 2010.

Good morning and welcome. Thank you for taking the time to be here with us today. I am honored to speak today in my hometown, beside and among my fellow comrades.

My purpose here today is to send a message to the youth standing among us all. and to possibly reinvigorate some of my fellow adults as well. I hope that my message will stay with you all for many years to come and that someday you will pass it along to your children. As the grandson, nephew, and son of Watsontown veterans, I was taught at an early age what a Veteran was, but more importantly, I was taught to show respect and appreciate their service to our nation. Memorial Day is not just a day off, a day for parades, BBQs, picnics or store sales — Memorial Day is an honored American tradition for remembering those Veterans that paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free. From those killed in the Boston Massacre to the most recent Iraq War casualty — they are all honored and revered by us on this day. Memorial Day is a day to remember and reflect on what these men did to provide each of us a great land of opportunity, and most of all, FREEDOM. Although we cannot physically repay these sacrifices, we can honor and respect those who have passed and appreciate and support those who have served and continue to serve us all today. We can all try harder to support and preserve the traditions, memories, and most of all, the honor and significance that Memorial Day deserves. By teaching a child the importance and reverence of this day, you will not only help preserve it, but most of all you will help honor our fallen comrades.

To most Americans and Veterans, the flag is not just a symbol of the United States but also, more importantly, a symbol of freedom and liberty. Respect for the flag is one of the most important things to any Veteran, as well as the way it is displayed, handled, and regarded. As you look across this cemetery today, you will see hundreds of flags; these flags fly on the graves of our departed Veterans. We are gathered here today to pay tribute and not only remember, but honor those who gave their lives in war. By flying a presentable, non-faded, non-torn American flag every day, you are also honoring all those who served, past and present.

I have attended Memorial Day services here for over 30 years and have stood in the very spot some of you are standing today, going back to my time in the Cub Scouts and later Boy Scouts. I have attended several large Memorial Day services in Arlington National Cemetery, and had the honor of witnessing President G.W. Bush lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I have also attended a small service in Emmett, Idaho, but no matter where I have been the last 30 years, I have attended Memorial Day Services. I attended these services not because I had to, was asked to, or was told to. I attended because it is a part of me and my values. These values were instilled upon me at a very young age by my parents, grandparents — men who served our country, always put country first, America first. Growing up in this small town provided me with a typical Norman Rockwell version of a small town America. Many of my neighbors were Veterans, my friends’ fathers were veterans, and of course, my entire family on both sides was filled with Veterans going all the way back to the Revolutionary War with Col. Mathew Brown up to my son John currently serving in Iraq.

It would have been very easy for me to make excuses for why I could not attend services over the last 30 years. It would have been easy to say I am too busy or I have more important things to do, but I ask you all, what is more important than spending an hour to honor those who have given us the very freedom we all enjoy today. This is where I feel some do not understand or have forgotten the true meaning of freedom because either they have never been without it or they never served or sacrificed in order to provide it. As the saying goes, you never understand how much you loved something until it is gone. I ask you all to make sure you know the meaning of freedom, but most of all, you know and understand the price that has been paid in the last 200 plus years for you to keep and enjoy your freedom. As young Americans, it is up to each of you to ensure freedom and liberty is alive and well here in America for generations to come.

Some of the values I was taught as a child in the ’70s are becoming harder to see these days in many of the younger generations. I am asking each of you to try and turn that around. Respect is something that is earned, but before it can be earned, it must be taught, and before it is taught, it must be understood by those teaching it. Respect for our Fallen, our Veterans, and our Flag is something all Americans should hold near and dear but also teach our young. For over 230 years, Americans have fought and died to provide and protect the freedoms of people they never knew or even met. These men standing behind and beside me today are not just Veterans and my fellow comrades; they are heroes. You will never, ever hear any of them say that and you will seldom ever hear them speak of their service and their time in war. I have been honored to have served on funeral details with many of these men and have been fortunate to hear some of their stories. I can only paint a picture of a military funeral, 20 degrees, over a foot of snow and many of these men in their ‘70s and ‘80s standing at attention and never once complaining, why, out of respect and dedication to the deceased. Many of these men left this area as boys; many of their friends never came back as they took on the task of protecting our nation and liberating others. These men were not called the Greatest Generation because they mastered their Playstation or iPhone; they were the greatest generation because they freed Europe from the Nazis and saved the world.

From the frozen Hurtgen Forrest and Chosin River Valley to the hot and muddy jungles of Ka San and Danang to the vast mountains and deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, these men fought, served and died so that you could be here today, free. Today you and your families are able to enjoy anything you please because our veterans, past and present, gave their lives to ensure it. We are here today to honor those who never returned and to respect those who are still here with us today.

Please remember those of us standing up here today are part of the past, it is up to each of you to teach about and carry on the tradition of Memorial Day and to preserve, protect and honor all those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Thank you.

For this Memorial Day, 2019, I wish to remember my friend and fellow soldier, Msg. Sean M. Thomas, KIA 3-27-07. 12 years has passed and you are not forgotten, your jokes, laughter and smile will never be forgotten but surely missed — RIP my friend.

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