My father loved Gen. Douglas MacArthur. He had a CD of some of the general’s speeches and often listened to them in his vehicle. On May 12, 1962, in his farewell speech (his “final roll call,” as he called it) at the U.S. Military Academy, Gen. MacArthur gave tribute to the many who have given their lives to protect freedom. I would like to recall a portion of that speech as we celebrate Memorial Day.
In stirring fashion, Gen. MacArthur stated, “Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man at arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefields many, many years ago and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world’s noblest figures — not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless.”
He continued, “But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism … From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage. As I listened to those songs of the glee club, in memory’s eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads; to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.
“I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light.”
On this Memorial Day, I encourage my friends across this nation to recall the sacrifices of the men and women who have preserved freedom on our shores and in foreign lands. May our hearts be filled with gratitude as we remember those who gave all. I encourage you this year to shake the hands of veterans, give out a few hugs, and convey your thanks to them for their service. Our veterans are the true heroes of our nation.