As we mark Memorial Day this year, let us reflect on why we set aside one day to show our gratitude to the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much to preserve our freedoms and the American way of life. United States soldiers have gone into battle in each and every corner of the world to meet the call and pay the price for freedom. Every since our great country was founded, we have enjoyed a unique place in the world. For our country is markedly different in that we are, as Ronald Reagan in his first Inaugural Address in 1981 said, “….a nation that has a government-not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth.” This is not to be taken lightly and many times in our nation’s history we have sent our young men and women into harm’s way in order to preserve our place in the world. At other times, our military has gone to face the evils of the world to liberate others. And when natural disasters strike, no matter where in the world, the United States always responds with humanitarian efforts, often delivered by our military.
One must stop and think that but not for the strength, resolve, compassion and courage of the United States military Europe would be vastly different than it is today. Not only would the lines on the maps quite probably be changed but many, many more lives would have been lost to the evils that plagued our world during WWII. Again, to point to Ronald Reagan, ours is a “shining city on a hill,” and on this day, let us take the time to thank our military personnel for their service to this great country. I know that I will, for my family knows what it means to have loved ones go off to battle. My father served in WWII and my younger brother served during the first Iraq war. Thankfully they both came home to us. Not all families are that fortunate, so let us not also forget that the soldiers are not the only ones to feel the sacrifice that comes with service to our country So as we go about grilling our hamburgers and getting a cold drink from the cooler, let’s take the time to show our gratitude to our service personnel. Thank a vet. Offer a friendly word to the family of a soldier. The next time you are in line at the grocery store or post office and you see one of our military people, let them know how much they mean to us. Let them know that we thank them from the bottom of our hearts, because freedom isn’t free and they, more than anyone else know just how true that is.
Ronald Reagan knew very well what our brave young men and women have done for our country and on the 40thAnniversary of the Normandy D-Day Invasion, he related a heartfelt and touching letter written to him from the daughter of a D-Day veteran. A letter in which she explained her father’s desire to return to the beaches of Normandy; a letter in which Private First Class Peter Robert Zanatta, of the 37thEngineer Combat Battalion says, “Someday, Lis, I’ll go back. I’ll go back, and I’ll see it all again. I’ll see the beach, the barricades, and the graves.”
Reagan was so moved by this letter and by the fact that Private Zanatta had succumbed to cancer 8 years earlier and thus, was deprived of his chance to return to Normandy. President Reagan so eloquently related this story to those in attendance that day in France.
“Lisa Zanatta Henn began her story by quoting her father, who promised that he would return to Normandy. She ended with a promise to her father, who died eight years ago of cancer, “I’m going there, Dad, and I’ll see the beaches and the barricades and the monuments. I’ll see the graves, and I’ll put flowers there just like you wanted to do. I’ll feel all the things you made me feel through your stories and your eyes. I’ll never forget what you went through, Dad, nor will I let anyone else forget. And Dad, I’ll always be proud.”
Through the words of his loving daughter, who is here with us today, a D day veteran has shown us the meaning of this day far better than any president can. It is enough for us to say about Private Zanatta and all the men of honor and courage who fought beside him four decades ago: We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.
I think the best line from that speech was when Reagan said:
“We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”
Thank you to all who have sacrificed to make the United States of America the greatest country the world has ever known.