Remember Them on this Memorial Day, March 31, 2021
Hello, I'm Jason Johns, state commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, department of Wisconsin. On behalf of our 26,000 members and 8,500 auxiliary, I pay tribute to all those in our military who died while in service to our great country. As we remember them on this Memorial Day, 2021, please join me in paying them the reverence and honor they are owed. For the families that sent loved ones overseas to fight our nation's wars, never to return, I express the VFW's unending support. Your sacrifice is recognized, honored, and most importantly, always remembered. Numerous of our state's brave service members are still returning home to this day. Cassville, Wisconsin's very own Army Sgt. 1st Class, Nicholas Jack Valentine is the latest Wisconsin soldier to come home 70 years after his death. He was reported missing in action on December 6, 1950, after an enemy attack near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. I was honored to be present and express my gratitude to his family when he finally returned home.
As we pause on this day to honor and remember those who answered our country's highest call to service and paid the ultimate sacrifice doing so, there are no words that could properly reflect the amount of enduring love, respect, and honor that we hold deep in our hearts for them. Our intent today is not to speak of the glory of battle or to pay homage to heroes, but rather to reflect on the person behind the deed and remember all of our fallen comrades, remember them for what they were, people, just like us. Equally, they held true to the values upon which this great land was founded and shared a common belief in freedom, justice, and liberty.
Do you remember them? Some were fathers, some were mothers, but all were sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. They were of every race, creed, and color. They came from every corner of our great nation and from other countries as well. Together, they defended, protected and advanced the cause of freedom. While protecting our nation, they did not choose the events of the world and circumstances into which they were thrust. Rather, the circumstances and events chose them. Throughout our nation's history, there has been a heavy cost involved in preserving our way of life. We as a nation have shouldered the cost, and for the many generations of men and women who fought and died for freedom’s sake, it came not as a burden, but as a duty they carried proudly.
Unfortunately, the sacrifices of our comrades are sometimes forgotten or disregarded, especially by those who gained the most from it. We must always remember that suffering under the heavy fist of tyranny and terror would still be the way of life for many in the world, if not for those we honor today. America's war dead are located in Normandy and other cemeteries in France, Holland, Belgium, Italy, North Africa, the Philippines, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Panama, the list goes on and on. All of it, sacred ground. All of it, silent testament to America's commitment to freedom-loving people everywhere.
As Colin Powell so eloquently stated, "We've gone forward from our shores repeatedly over the last 100 years, and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we've asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in." The past 20 years has brought forth the new generation of patriots who've been put to the test in the war against terrorism. Like their brothers and sisters who came before them, they were sent to far off places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and the Horn of Africa. They left behind the comforts of home. Many of our service members are in harm's way every day while their families pray for their safe return. Peace and freedom do have a cost. It is up to every one of us to ensure the legacy of our nation's fallen is passed on from generation to generation. We must ensure that the youth of tomorrow have an awareness and understanding of whom it is they should honor, and exactly why they should honor them.
As we preserve the memory and the deeds of our fallen throughout the coming years, we need to care for those who return with all manner of physical, mental, and moral injuries. Serving with dedication and valor, they deserve and have earned adequate and proper medical care, as well as compensation for their wounds, injuries or illnesses. After the welcome home parades have ended, after the handshakes and pats on the back for their service are done, and after all the flag-waving has died down, what happens next?
Our responsibility and our obligation to our veterans shouldn't end when the welcome home is over. The defenders of this nation fulfilled their obligation to us, and it is up to us to meet the obligations we owe to them. To do anything less is to betray the memory and the sacrifice of our dead. To do anything else will cause our future generations to ask why they should put their lives on the line to take care of a citizenry that will not take care of them after they return.
On this Memorial Day, know that our destiny as a free people is entirely up to us. Let every deed and act of each of our days be guided by the memory of those who gave their lives for our future freedoms. May their sacrifice continue to inspire us and fill us with hope. May we never forget the true meaning of this day. Remember them.