Memorial Day 2022 Speech
Sheriff Russell L. Martin
In the first century after the death of Christ, Roman Senator Tacitus is credited with making the statement “In Valor There is Hope.” The Memorial Day reflection is a time to pause, remember, and recognize those who have afforded us Hope.
Hope that when the natural right of our freedom is threatened, whether at home or abroad, there remain Men and Women who stand up to tyranny. Through acts of Valor, these Guardians extend to us the Hope that whenever evil and darkness rear its selfish and oppressive heads, there remain Men and Women who care more for ideas, values, and virtues, who are willing to fight, and on occasion, die for something they believe is more important than their own individual comfort.
And in their willingness to serve the greater good, they become a sign of Hope — even against remarkable odds and against the enemies of liberty and freedom. They will not back down or cower, but instead stand ramrod stiff against the forces that would roam this world with the goal to subjugate humankind and bring under the submission those who despise the liberty and freedom we ALL desire.
It’s been said that in war there are two rules. Rule number one is that in war men and women will lose their lives. Rule number two is that you cannot change Rule number one. It is a painful truth that throughout the history of mankind there have been those desirous to limit liberty, and in their endeavor they will spare nothing to take from others this valued freedom. God is the ultimate bestower of Individual Freedom. But in this Freedom some have used it as an excuse to pursue license over others for their own selfish interest.
That is what makes Memorial Day in America so significant. It is why we should always pause, reflect, and ruminate on why we have the freedoms we cherish and regrettably in some circles have been taken for granted. Because Memorial Day represents both the individual and collective battle for freedom fought by those of different socioeconomic standing, faiths, color, and backgrounds who all shared a common goal and by and large held similar values — despite their individual differences.
Christ himself reminds us in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” In the midst of conflict upon the battlefield and despite their varied backgrounds, we know the stories of the shared comradery and the friendships forged where many would remarkably lay down their life for their friends. Many have come home to the hope of a better life because of the ultimate sacrifice made by friends.
Historians, scholars, politicians, and citizens will always debate the merits of any conflict. That is NOT our purpose today. Today we honor the lost, as Lincoln so elegantly described them at Gettysburg when he stated that they gave the “last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
No Memorial Service provides adequate comfort for those left behind. There is No closure for the loved ones left to consider what the holiday or cook-out would have been like with their loved one present. It is a moment on the calendar to intentionally take time to consider the Hope we have because of the Service and Sacrifice They made. To share their stories with the next generation and remind them, and us all, that there are causes greater than the individual.
I’ve told the story on numerous occasions. It was upon my first trip to France. Through my law enforcement network, a member of the French Gendarmerie (the National Police) met my family at the airport. He helped us load his car and then drove us to where we would stay as a family. Before he started the ignition on his car, with my family quietly seated as his passengers, he hesitated momentarily and made this declaration: “On behalf of the Nation of France, I want to thank you that we do not speak German.”
Those who fought and died at Normandy, those who succumbed at Valley Forge, those who fought and perished on jungle islands in the pacific, Southeast Asia, and in the middle east… those who gave the “last full measure of devotion” in battlefields across the globe and throughout our nation’s history are the purveyors of Hope.
Wherever America’s finest have showed up to engage in Acts of Valor they have extended hope to those who desire only the same things we all pursue: Life, Liberty, Property, and Happiness.
I recently received a call from a colleague in South Africa. In an incredulous tone he asked, “What is going on in America?” We spoke briefly about the state of affairs and I concluded by asking him why he cares so much about our nation. He stated succinctly “because America sets the standard for us all.”
It’s easy to become discouraged with the news in today’s world. It would be easy to linger in melancholy on this Memorial Day as we consider the loss of loved ones. But we should leave here, on this solemn site, reminded of the Hope we have in Valor and in the Men and Women who remain committed to answer the call to serve and sometimes to sacrifice for our collective benefit.
In the end, Hope finds its strength in Love. Love of Good over evil, Love for this great nation, Love for our countrymen, Love for our families, and Love for Freedom. On this Memorial Day, I chose NOT to be discouraged, but grateful for those who love and for those who give us hope. As long as Love remains, Hope will survive.
Thank God for the many who have extended to me and to us this Hope. May their sacrifices not be in vain. It depends on us, the remaining, to give meaning to their sacrifice and extend this Hope to the next generation.
May God bless and comfort the families of so many who have experienced the loss of a loved one in service to our nation. May God encourage the men and women who remain in service to this great nation. And May God bless Delaware County, the great state of Ohio (THE best state in the Union) and may God bless the United States of America!