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Wreaths Across America: Honoring The Fallen

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Delivered by Senator Allen Schmidt at the Wreaths Across America Memorial on December 11th, 2012 in Topeka, Kansas

Governor Brownback, Lt Gov Colyer, Fellow Veterans, Families and friends of our Veterans.

As mentioned earlier, this laying of wreaths across America honors those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

  • We must honor and remember the Fallen and the sacrifice they and their families have given to this Nation.
  • We also honor and thank those who now serve – many who will be separated from their families this Christmas season.
  • We thank those who have served – our Veterans from all the uniformed services.

To add some perspective of Military service, let me lay out a few facts.  The call to duty in uniform only reached a relatively small percentage of the population in our history.  When you put all the numbers together of men and women who have served in America’s military since the Revolutionary War, it totals about 50 million.  That sounds like a big number, but over a period of 230 years and with a current population over 300 million, it amounts to a fraction of Americans in our history.   Nearly half of those who served are still alive today, including Veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Panama, Grenada, Somalia, The Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, The Global War on Terrorism, and all times in between.

When we talk about Veterans, we cannot forget the family members of our Military.  They are sometimes called to an even greater sacrifice when their loved ones are away and they are left to fend for their families under very difficult circumstances.  The spouses of our Military are recognized as vital partners in our national military strategy because of the role they play in the current military situation where deployments away from home occur every couple of years for many in uniform.  We must support those families because they support our troops.

When we lay these wreaths, we also teach and witness the value of service to country as well as the duty and importance of a patriot to our Nation.

You see, the measure of a patriot is in the heart and the soul.  It is in the response to serve with a willingness to stake one’s life on protecting a vision of freedom and liberty – that was ordained by God Himself and shaped by our founding fathers into what we call America.

Let me give you an example by taking you to the root of military service with this statement that many of you are very familiar with – especially all of us Veterans.

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

So starts each of our Military service.  Every veteran has at one point – and many several times – sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and bear true allegiance to the same.

So today, it is fitting that we revisit that oath – that solemn commitment – that sets a Veteran apart as a patriot in this great nation.

When we speak of those who have given their lives for freedom, we call them heroes.   Heroes are in our midst every day.  Heroism too, like patriotism, is in the heart.  Heroic actions come from courage, conviction, and choices that are made, often in a crisis situation.  Choices that are not for self, but rather that are selfless.  The situation itself often dictates that level of sacrifice.

Let it be known that selfless service is a core value that our Fallen aspired to, lived by, and died by.   Selfless service is what birthed our nation, has secured our liberties through many generations, and has preserved us to this day.

I leave you with this thought: We honor and remember our Warriors, Patriots, Veterans, and Heroes as we lay wreaths upon their graves.  But that is not all.  For you see… they still give.  And as long as we honor and remember their sacrifice, they will continue to inspire us to duty, to patriotism, and to selfless service.    And for a nation gripped in challenge as ours is, we can still find hope if we follow in their example as citizens and elected leaders.

May God bless them and their families.  May God protect those who protect us.  And may He bless this nation with leaders and Patriots who will serve selflessly with integrity and honor –  “so help me God”.  Thank-you.

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