Hastings Honors America’s Heroes at Memorial Day Celebration
Today, Congressman Doc Hastings delivered the following prepared remarks at the 42nd Annual Memorial Day Program at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Richland, in honor of those who have bravely served our country in uniform:
“We gather here today on Memorial Day. A special day of remembrance for those who have given their lives in service to our nation.
“It is not simply another holiday – but a special commemoration first observed as Decoration Day on May 30, 1868 – when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers.
“Nearly 150 years later, Memorial Day remains one of America’s most cherished patriotic observances.
“Across the nation, Americans are gathering – as we are here today – to pay tribute to those who fought and died for democracy and freedom. And to pay tribute to those who fought and died to ensure the security of our homeland.
“These soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms that we all too often take for granted. They deserve our utmost respect and our deepest gratitude. But it shouldn’t stop there. Our respect and gratitude should be extended to the countless others who have bravely served our nation on the battlefield.
“It is important that we never lose sight of the fact that the freedoms we enjoy today were won initially with the lives of over 25,000 Americans during the Revolutionary War. These freedoms have been protected over the course of our history by over a million Americans – both women and men – who gave their lives in service to our country.
“In the last century alone:
“And today, we have soldiers who are voluntarily defending our nation, and making the ultimate sacrifice in the War on Terror. Currently, over 6,000 brave men and women have lost their lives in protecting our nation and defending our freedoms against the surge of international terrorism.
“For each and every one of these Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice, their deeds and dedication must never be forgotten. We owe these men and women a debt that can never truly be repaid.
“They gave their lives for a cause they each considered infinitely important. None expected to die. Yet each volunteered to defend – at any cost, however high – the core values upon which our nation was founded.
“Throughout our history, the American people have steadfastly believed that freedom and our way of life is worth defending.
“Because of their sacrifice, we enjoy the freedom to choose our government; we enjoy the freedom from foreign tyranny; we enjoy the freedom to attend whatever church we choose; we enjoy the freedom to freely express our views; and we enjoy the freedom to raise our families as we see fit.
“When honoring the soldiers who gave their lives for our country, I am often reminded of the words of President Abraham Lincoln, whose address at Gettysburg in 1863 continues to resonate 151 years later.
“’From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they 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.’
“The contributions of our veterans to this great nation are immeasurable. On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us never forget the debt we owe to them for protecting and defending their fellow citizens and the freedoms we cherish.
“As long as every generation rises to its challenges and stands up in defense of liberty – as we have done in the past, and as our men and women continue to do today – our nation will remain free and strong.
“In closing, let us think of the brave men and women currently in our Armed Forces – especially those serving on the front lines of the War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the Middle East. These men and women are part of a noble tradition dating back over two centuries to the Revolutionary War. And now, as then, it is their daily line of work and daily courage that keep our country safe.
“These brave men and women, and their families, deserve our thoughts and prayers for a safe return home.
“Thank you and God bless you.”