My grandfather was a preacher, farmer, and politician in West Virginia during the first half of the 20th century. Here is the text of a speech he gave in Cameron, WVa, on Memorial Day in 1953.
Mr. Chairman, Beloved and respected defenders of our America in the struggles of the past and in the present bloody war. Ladies and gentlemen - It is not necessary that I explain the object of our service today. Its purpose is engrafted on your memory as one of our most cherished privileges. The privilege of a free people, scattering the tokens of undying love upon the graves of those who made the supreme sacrifice and honoring the memories of those whose bodies are in the embrace of mother earth in foreign lands or sleeping in the bosom of the mighty deep.
And although it is not possible to erase from our memories the terrible realities of war, yet we can raise our hearts in thanksgiving and appreciation. And as we bow our heads in honor of our brave boys and girls, we feel at the same time the tenderest sentiment of a great sorrow. And the gladness of a grateful heart.
We mourn and yet we rejoice. We uncover our heads as a token of true solemnity, and yet we bless the courage of these defenders of the Grandest Nation on earth America.
Who can point to a more noble purpose than to meet as we meet today?
And as I look over this audience I see the same true spirit outlined in your countenance as they manifest in their service. I see the same sentiment of loyalty. I see in the flush of the cheek your willingness to do and to dare in defence of the flag we love.
We are all endowed with the same loyalty to our government, the same determination to protect it and the same courage to defend it. As a people we are grand in government, grand in prosperity, and grand in achievement. Alone we stand upon the foundation of our greatness. But it is not enough that we proclaim our greatness. There is more for all of us to do. And as we meet together on this Memorial Day, let us renew our devotion to our government and so educate our people that our American form of government will never decay.
May we ever appreciate the heritage bequeathed to us on the altar of sacrifice. And may we realize the sacredness of that loyalty which binds us together up on the plain of equal rights. We know our greatness and let us, by a just and righteous conduct, cherish it.
The strength of true greatness depends upon the basic principles of honesty and justice. It was these principles that won for us the glorious independence of this nation. It was these that governed the makers of our constitution, and it is these same principles which must govern our future acts if we would maintain the proud position we hold among other nations. Only five remain who fought in the civil war. They range in age from 105 to 110 years. But later, thirty-five years ago there went forth from their homes thousands of fine young men. They crossed the rolling deep and pitched their tents in Flanders fields and in the Valley of the Argonne.
They lived in dugouts. They marched and ate and slept in mud. They rushed into living hells. They were cold, weary and homesick, no one but Almighty God knows the length and breadth and the depth of the awful anguish and suffering of those who fought and died on those European battlefields.
Then again in world war two the call came for defenders of our sacred rights, and your boys and mine answered that call with the same undaunted courage and the same unquenchable spirit that characterized the brave lads of 76, of the Spanish American war, and the boys of world war one - They went forth, met and conquered the enemy in the skys over Europe, in the mud of Italy, in the jungled islands of the Pacific, and in the frozen north land. And today our brave boys are fighting in the jungles of Korea against the most barbarous and uncivilized enemy we can imagine.
Why do young men postpone the day of marriage, print the last long lingering kiss on the lips of a loved one and rush into war with its uncertain future? Why do fathers and mothers bid their boys and girls a fond goodbye and send them forth to the many battle fronts? I am sure they did it for a principle.
There has never been an upward movement in the history of the world for the liberation of the people of the earth that has not been achieved by the shedding of precious blood. Man’s forward march from lower to higher ideals is written on the roadways of history in footprints of blood. And today the souls of men and women are being tried all because the power seeking dictators of the world would regiment and enslave the peoples of the entire world. And turn their God ordained liberty into slavery.
Religious liberty, domestic security, social welfare, and political independence are all thrown into the balance. And our boys have cast their lives in the scales to maintain these blessings. These blessings can only be enjoyed so long as we have proper regard for a divine being. God is on the ocean, on the desert, on the isles of the sea and in the frigid north land. As well as in the U.S. For the nations and kingdoms that will not serve Thee shall perish. Yea these nations shall be utterly wasted. Isa 60:12
We make the sacrifice because we love our country and her institutions. And when our eyes behold that emblem of our national existence, we feel as though we could clasp its folds in our dearest embrace, and kiss each star that bedecks its field of blue. Flag of our fathers. Flag of our Washington, our Lincoln, our Douglas, our Grant. Flag of our brave men in their present conflict. As we see it floating on the wind of Heaven we feel and know what it represents.
We stand before you in awe and admiration while in our hearts we thank God that you still float over us the emblem of liberty and freedom - God bless America.