It is the day before Memorial Day and I sit in my study looking over the final touches of a speech I will soon give. The speech will be among many given in Manhattan, Kansas, also known as the Little Apple, as part of a fundraiser benefit for the Fort Riley scholarship fund for the children of fallen soldiers here in Kansas. The title of the benefit rally is “Taking Back Freedom,” and I feel that I would not be true to the event unless I crafted a speech that addressed both the troops and what I see as the broader, more relevant, message behind the event’s title. This is where speech writers go to work.
This can be a challenge even for a person like me who speaks almost every day on television, radio, and in the lecture hall. The concern, plainly stated, is that I will convey a string of pleasant platitudes and nicely worded phrases but fail to relate that all-important something, that deeper truth that makes the listener say, “That’s it, I get it.” I know only two golden rules on how to share words with people when the topic really counts: Look for the truth no matter how it might be hidden, and tell it no matter what the consequences. So here goes.
Let’s look at what should be obvious when it comes to military benefit rallies or Memorial Days. Americans owe a debt that can never be repaid to our soldiers. This nation’s bountiful prosperity has been maintained and defended throughout our history by courageous Americans who took up arms to fight enemies from the redcoats to radical Islamic extremists. Their bravery to give their lives in battle is undeniable, and we humbly gather once a year to recognize the ultimate sacrifice they have given.
Is this momentous understanding of death for country in the heat of battle the entire beginning and end of Memorial Day, if not how we think about the military? I think not. I believe a deeper truth still waits to be acknowledged. What of the soldiers who evade death’s embrace in battle and return to solidify the defensive lines of this county? What of the families of the fallen who hold the American flag high showing their respect for the dead, and love of country? What of the soldier who serves in peacetime, whose presence and readiness for battle holds the jackals of this world at bay? Are they not all tied together in commitment and sacrifice? Maybe as Americans, it is what we stand for, who we are, that binds us and makes us unique, exceptional—one nation under God.
If that is true, and more importantly, if that is “it,” the truth of the matter, then every man, woman, and child should look differently at the military and the Memorial Days that follow. In the truest respect, we are all the American military, and the American military is us. We are tied by blood, brotherhood, and belief; our destinies are as one.
Whether it is the Japanese and Nazis of the past, the Soviets of the Communist Party from yesterday, or the radical Islamic extremists of today, there will always be evil forces that wish to extinguish the light of freedom with the darkness of oppression. This country’s history is replete with these examples and we must always be vigilant to safeguard what we hold dear from adversaries, both foreign and domestic. Could it be that “Taking Back Freedom” is something more than the transfer of cash, a nod of approval, or a few kind words to those that serve? I believe it is a reminder that we all have a call to duty, that we all support one another and must take up the mantle of responsibility that this realization mandates.
Paul A. Ibbetson is a published author, lecturer, and radio host. He can be contacted at [email protected]