Speech by Maj. Wendell Lowry, US Army

Today, 26 May 2008, in the midst of our family outings, backyard picnics, and the beginning of the Summer Vacation Season, We Pause for a moment to Reflect, and Remember Our Fallen Warriors.  Men And Women Who Have – In The Words Of President Lincoln – Given Their Last Full Measure Of Devotion To Preserve this, the Greatest Country in the World.  This Memorial Day, we not only remember the nearly 1.2 Million men and women who have sacrificed all, we also take the time to honor them as our Hero’s.  For without their sacrifice we would not be able to enjoy the Freedoms we do today.  We also take time to Remember and honor the families of those who have died in battle.  We remember their sacrifice, and their suffering over the loss of their loved ones.   


Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, MG John A. Logan an Illinois Veteran and Commander of the Union veterans organization — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — issued General Order number 11, which established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Gen Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30th. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.


Gen. Logan’s order for his posts - which included the Sam Walker Post Number 205, Grand Army of the Republic in Mt. Pulaski - to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime.”  He stated “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance.  Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”


It was in 1971 that the United States Congress Passed The National Holiday Act, which Designated the Last Monday In May as Memorial Day.  Since that first Memorial Day, each of the graves of our fallen hero’s in our National Cemeteries, here and abroad have been decorated with our Nations Flag.  In 2000, Congress created the White House Commission on Remembrance.  One initiative of the Commission is the Moment of Remembrance that will take place today at 3:00 PM local time throughout the Nation.  Please take a minute during the Moment of Remembrance to remember all who have fallen on the field of battle, and those they loved and left behind.  Also take a moment to reflect on the service of our brave young men and women protecting our freedom today. 

We must not forget that we are a Nation at War.  Men and women in uniform today are laying down their lives for you and for me.  They lay them down willingly to protect us from forces opposed to Freedom and are bent on the destruction of this Country and our way of life.  “Our Men And Women in Uniform are this Nations most powerful Line Of Defense in this War. They come from all parts of America and have answered the Call To Duty.”


In the coming months, the Illinois Army National Guard will deploy nearly 2,700 Soldiers to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  Remember that they are deploying to a hostile environment where at anytime they could be called upon to give that last full measure of devotion in battle to defend our Country.  As they leave this land, we ask God’s blessings for their safe return, and we take the time to remember them and those they love in our prayers.


I want to thank you all for being here today to honor the brave men and women who have fallen in the service of our country.  In closing I ask that as we leave this sacred place, that we remember the sacrifice of the families of the fallen, with the words of President Lincoln in a letter to the widowed mother of 5 sons killed in the service of this Nation:


Executive Mansion
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864

To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.
Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully
A. Lincoln