In 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave our war-torn nation one of the mightiest speeches ever delivered. The Gettysburg address commemorated those who gave their “last full measure of devotion,” at a time when our nation was ripping itself apart. In his eulogy on the slain president two years later, Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts said Lincoln was mistaken when the president remarked “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” Sumner assured a grieving nation, "The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech."
During Memorial Day observances, gifted speakers deliver eloquent remarks from thoughtful words written before them. This writer recognizes our debt to those who have served in the Armed Forces is subject to the inadequacy of my words, regardless of the sincerity with which the words are committed to print.
Our country’s history is steeped in the courage of our countrymen willing to die for past, present, and future generations. It is our duty, in turn, to honor those who have served. Our fallen lie in the bosom of the earth, but their righteous sacrifice is forever noted in heaven. We must never forget the valor and sacrifice of our men and women in the Armed Forces, for the fragile freedoms we enjoy today come at a price too steep to be taken for granted.
Recently, my family visited Arlington National Cemetery to pay our respects to my father and two grandfathers who willingly served in Europe during World War II and World War I. With their fellow patriots interred throughout the cemetery’s sacred ground, each now bears silent witness to the just cause for which they fought, and for the strong and good nation represented by the Stars and Stripes. The magnificence of Arlington Cemetery goes beyond its manicured lawns and sea of white marble headstones. Quiet reflection among the graves of the fallen heroes unleashes a listless spirit of patriotism defying even the most prolific writer.
If words are inadequate, then our actions must prevail by keeping faith in the values for which these men, and women, fought and died. We must show our profound gratitude to veterans still living, and re-pledge our allegiance to The United States of America and for the freedom for which she stands. Our obligation is to honor our men and women in uniform; to respect our flag; and to be willing to take honorable measures to ensure our liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness endures and prospers for generations to come. By committing ourselves to our nation in these ways, while less heroic, we give proper recognition to those we commemorate this Memorial Day.
R. Bruce Gemmill is a Leesburg resident and former Town Council member.