Yesterday, thousands of New Rochelle residents turned out to observe Memorial Day. I offer thanks to the many organizers who contributed to the day’s success, most especially the United Veterans Memorial & Patriotic Association and Monroe College, which served at the chief financial sponsor of the event.
In addition to laying a wreath at Memorial Plaza, I had the privilege of offering the following remarks:
Today Americans gather once more, here in New Rochelle, and in cities, towns and villages far and wide, in solemn tribute to our nation’s fallen.
For some, like many of the veterans here, who lost friends on the field of battle, and for others, who mourn loved ones killed in service to country, the hard truth of war is measured in flesh and blood.
But for most of us — for the majority, who, like me, have never served and who came of age in an era with no draft – that terrible sacrifice is difficult even to comprehend.
In place of personal experience, we see a thousand Hollywood movies in which the uniforms are crisp, the troops are neatly ordered, and the men and women tempt death with heads held high.
Safe as we are, an ocean and a continent from conflict, preparing to enjoy parades and barbecues, these images are all-too-pleasing and all-too-persuasive. Yet, surely, the reality is far different.
The reality is chaos and uncertainty. It is mud and sand. The reality, above all, is fear.
Fear of never seeing home again. Fear of never seeing a child again. Fear of never seeing a mother again. Fear of never being whole in body again. The naked fear of soldiers, many hardly older than boys and girls. The fear of killing and of being killed.
To pretend otherwise is to cheat the dead of the honor they have earned. For, in truth, there is no courage without fear, no heroism without adversity. And the fallen are heroes and are courageous.
It is the duty of those who do not serve to understand and acknowledge the horror of war, without any false sheen of glamour, so that we may give to those who endured it, their full and proper due.
May we ask God’s blessing on the memory of the departed, and may we in our aims and deeds prove worthy always of their sacrifice.