A few excerpts from Ronald Reagan’s 1982 Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery. While the adversary Reagan spoke of was Soviet communism, the same applies to radical Islam today.
In America’s cities and towns today, flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries; public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor. …
I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. …Yet, we must try to honor them — not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice.
Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we — in a less final, less heroic way — be willing to give of ourselves. …
It’s not just strength or courage that we need, but understanding and a measure of wisdom as well. We must understand enough about our world to see the value of our alliances. We must be wise enough about ourselves to listen to our allies, to work with them, to build and strengthen the bonds between us.
Our understanding must also extend to potential adversaries. …we must never fail to note, as frequently as necessary, the wide gulf between our codes of morality. …Nor must we ever underestimate the seriousness of their aspirations to global expansion. The risk is the very freedom that has been so dearly won. …
Winston Churchill said of those he knew in World War II they seemed to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, “just the best darn kids in the world.” Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life.
Well, they didn’t volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization.
I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask.
Please remember those that have died for your freedoms on this special day of the year. Indeed, we need to keep these brave young men & women always in our hearts and prayers. I, personally, know of no finer individual than one who has served in our Armed Forces; especially during times of conflict. I am proud of each and every one of you. Thanks for your service, dedication, and sacrifice. [Doc]