Sen. Ross, Members of the Franklin Town Council, Colonel Reitenger and distinguished Veterans, Members of Veterans service organizations, and guests; I am honored to be here with you this afternoon.
Today is a time of remembrance and reflection on the knowledge that our freedom in America is attached to great sacrifice. We gather to thank our military heroes who answered the call of duty, served in harm’s way for the sake of this country, and paid the ultimate price so that we could be free. At this time, you may be thinking of your grandfather, your father, your husband, your brother . . . your child . . . your grandmother, your wife, your sister, or other loved ones in uniform who served courageously in the United States Armed Forces.
Many Americans, across the years and in recent conflicts, have answered the call to duty on the battlefields of Europe, the Pacific, the Korean Peninsula, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
We have this opportunity to assure that these brave men and women – your family members, neighbors, coworkers, and many more — will not be forgotten and may remain forever in our hearts. To all of them, on this hallowed day, we extend our deepest respect and gratitude.
When I was growing up just up the road in Milford, I have vivid memories of receiving the news that the young man who lived across the street had been killed in Vietnam on August 18, 1968. He was a friend of my two uncles and there clearly was a void. I was 7 years old and can still remember the sorrow expressed at the dinner table discussions. I recall the sullen looks in the faces all around. And I recall the emptiness of my neighbor’s house. These monuments before us bear the names of those from our community who made that sacrifice in the name of enduring freedom. We are all proud of what they and others did for us.
More than 1 million guardians and protectors made the ultimate sacrifice in America’s wars to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today. They gave so much to bring greater security and safety to our country and to many other places in the world; they are the few to whom we all owe so much.
The Milford Daily News ran a great story in yesterday’s paper about the memorials here in Franklin and all of the surrounding towns. It’s a reminder that all of these monuments and memorials offer a place of remembrance and reflection. And today, it’s our time to extend tributes of thanks, share collective memories of these troops, and to reflect on their valor and the bond of freedoms that unite Americans.
We are grateful for your presence here today on the Franklin Town Common where we continue to uphold Abraham Lincoln’s words regarding America’s obligation to repay our debt to those who died in service to our country:
“It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”
I mention frequently that when I approach and enter the State House, I think of those who made the sacrifice. I pass monuments and memorials to soldiers from all of the conflicts through our nation’s history. They instill in me the gravity and importance of the work to be done. I truly cherish the opportunity to serve in the House of Representatives, and it is my sincere hope that it provides some measure of gratitude to those who fought so that I and my colleagues could secure their vision of liberty.
We are also reminded on this day that in each generation, brave men and women will always step forward to take the oath of allegiance as members of America’s armed forces, willing to fight and if necessary die, for the sake of freedom.
George Washington, our first Commander in Chief, once stated:
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”
There are many tangible things we can do to honor the service of our fallen heroes. First and foremost, is to take care of their families. Remembering our fallen once a year is not enough. The widows, widowers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children remember EVERY DAY.
The empty seat at the dinner table, the smaller gathering on Thanksgiving, and the voice of a loved one heard only as a distant memory are constant reminders that they are gone. Let’s forever keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
And we also must honor the living comrades of the fallen – the wounded, injured and ill members of our Armed Forces. We must provide suitable medical care, comfort, and compassion to those scarred by war, and embrace them as they return.
In that vein, I am dismayed by reports that some of our veterans have received less than stellar care at some VA Hospitals in the country. Last week, I was proud to stand with my colleagues on the front steps of the State House addressing serious concerns with the Department of Veteran Affairs, and calling on the Federal Government to take investigative action into the reported deaths of over 40 veterans awaiting care in VA facilities. While at the rally, Franklin was well represented. Sen. Ross and Sen Spilka were there too. And I was pleased to see veteran Kevin Fitzpatrick from Franklin, who drove into Boston to participate because of his concerns about what is happening to his brothers. The Massachusetts Legislature has always taken pride in the fact that the Commonwealth is a national leader in veteran benefits and services and we will not tolerate this failing of our veterans at the national level.
We must pledge to never forget our veterans, not just today, but every day. Take pause frequently to thank them for their service. Later today, please join Americans everywhere for the Memorial Day National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time. During that moment, individuals across the U.S. will pause for one minute, in unity and gratitude, for those who have given their lives in service to our Nation.
In closing, it is fitting that your presence here today speaks to what President John F. Kennedy once said:
“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”
Thank you for being here to honor our patriots.
May God bless them, may God bless you, and may God Bless our United States.