MASSENA - Standing in Veterans Memorial Park in Massena on Memorial Day, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Richard Matthias pointed out three monuments that contained the names of 80 local fallen service members who had given their lives in defense of the country.
They were, he said, among the estimated 1.2 million men and women who had fallen over the course of 239 years during 62 military actions.
These noble defenders of our nation have performed the highest form of public service to our society. Their sacrifices have given us our freedoms, our liberties and our security. It is only fitting that we should pause and remember them, Lt. Col. Matthias said.
They came from all walks of life to serve their country, he said.
In a true reflection of our inclusive society, we memorialize the sacrifices of service members of many races. Descendants of Native, European, African, Asian and Hispanic cultures have served and sacrificed with honor and distinction, he said.
These sacrifices have included representatives of our varied faith traditions, Lt. Col. Matthias said. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist, Hindu, Sikh and many others have contributed and fallen. Men and women, straight and gay, all of these have fallen in defense of this great Republic, this wonderful experiment in democracy.
Now, he said, it was time to remember those who had laid down their lives for their country. He quoted a section of President Abraham Lincolns Gettysburg Address - From these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that those dead shall not have died in vain.
That is a wonderful and powerful sentiment - that these honored dead... shall not have died in vain. How do we accomplish that? How do we remember, honor and insure that the sacrificed of over 1,200,00 dead shall not have died in vain, he said.
I will suggest to you a way to honor those who have died to allow our country, our communities and our families to continue. It is to live, to live and insure the continued existence of the very things for which they sacrificed and died, Lt. Col. Matthias said.
He suggested ways to excel as a citizen to honor sacrifices the men and women had made to keep American free.
If you want to honor the sacrifices that were made for you, vote. Someone died to guarantee you that privilege. If you want to honor the sacrifices that were made for you, volunteer, serve the great good. Someone died to defend your country and your community, he said.
If you want to honor the sacrifices that were made for you, speak up, resist and expose those who would deny others the same justice and security that you enjoy. Someone died to provide your freedoms and you must insure that those freedoms extend to all Americans, whether you agree with them or not, Lt. Col. Matthias said.
And finally, he said, If you want to honor the sacrifices that were made for you, provide. Someone died so that you and your family can live in safety and security.
Honor the sacrifices that were made for you through your own action and your own sacrifice, Lt. Col. Matthias said. Vote, volunteer, speak up and provide. In doing so you will pay the highest tribute possible to the 1,200,000 lives that were given for you, your family, your community and your country.
In his opening prayer, Herb Spence, chaplain for VFW Post 1143 and commander of the Korean War Veterans Association, thanked veterans for their sacrifices and asked for a prayer for families of those who didnt return home.
Father, we come before you as we remember those who gave their all that our country might be free. We ask your blessing upon their families, those who sacrificed much because their loved ones didnt come home. We thank you for the veterans who served and have been faithful to the call from their country. Now we ask you to bless those of our men and women who are scattered around the world defending freedom, some at great cost, he said.