On May 28, Americans celebrated Memorial Day. A day to remember and be thankful for those who died while serving in the military forces of the United States. Here in Southampton (also known as Vincentown), New Jersey, where I have lived for the past 14 years, we celebrate with a big parade. This was the 133rd consecutive year in which the parade was held. Local clergy (such as myself) participate by offering prayers at various locations in town before the parade starts. Then we are invited to ride in the parade in a designated clergy car. We wave at the people lining the parade route and they wave at us. At the end of the parade there is a cermony which includes music by the local school band, recognition of a miltary veteran who serves as the grand marshall of the parade, and a speech by a currently serving military person from the nearby military base, and a prayer by one of the members of the clergy.
Until the last few years a clergy person was also asked to give a brief speech. Two times I have had the honor of giving this speech. During the past week I read those speeches again, and felt that what God inspired me to say in the speech I gave eight years ago, was still appropriate today. I humbly invite you now to read the speech I gave on May 31, 2004. While I speak here of the United States of America and the members of our armed forces, I believe we also need to remember, honor, and be thankful for those who served in the armed forces of the allied nations.
Grace and peace, Ray
MEMORIAL DAY SPEECH, MAY 31, 2004
by Rev.Raymond H.Gough
Five months after the signing of our Declaration of Independence, and the beginning of our War for Independence, the Continental Army, led by George Washington, had retreated from New York City, across New Jersey and the Delaware River to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. More and more militia men were deserting the army. The City of Philadelpha – the seat of government – was panic-stricken. On December 20 Washington sent a message to the leaders of the new government saying “ten more days will put an end to the existence of the army”. The new nation was in a state of crisis. It appeared that the courage, the fighting, and the dying had all been in vain. It appeared that all was hopeless.
Over the past 224 years the United States of America and our allied nations have faced many war time crises. Men and women of our military forces have served, fought, and died in places near and far, in just about every corner of the world, right up until this very moment. Today we honor and remember them all. Today we also remember why they served, fought, and died. To achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not just for some Americans. But for all Amercians. Not just for Americans. But ultimately for the world.
Today we are again facing a war time crisis. I believe God created this nation to become “One nation under God”. A nation which proclaims “In God we trust”. At the same time I believe this nation is not acting as though it is united under God and seems not to be placing very much trust in God. Especially concerning the present war we are fighting. The worlwide war against terrorism. More and more Americans are calling for our military forces to retreat to a safe place behind our own borders. They forget the message of September 11, 2001. There is no safety behind our own borders. The enemy is already here. At this very moment there are those who are plotting one or more major attacks against us and against other nations around the world. The enemy, at home and abroad, must be destroyed, if the world is to move toward achieving life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What are we to say to those who see retreat as the way out of our current war time crisis?
Let’s return to December 1776. With the Continental Army during its retreat was a man names Thomas Paine. On December 23, three days after Washington warned the leaders of our new government that our army would not last more than ten days, Paine read to the army in Valley Forge, these words which he had recently written: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldiers and the sunshine patriots will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country, but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we attain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” On December 25 – Christmas Day – the Continental Army, inspired by these words, counterattacked the Hessian mercenaries, and won the battle of Trenton. Five years later, with faith, commitment, and sacrifice, the war, and independence, had been won by the United States of America.
On May 24, 2004, President George W.Bush, referring to the war in Iraq and the world-wide war against terrorism said, “There are difficult days ahead and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic… We will persevere and defeat this enemy and hold this hard won ground for the realm of liberty.” What do we say to those who doubt these, words, spoken in our prsent war time crisis? What do we say to these “sunshine patriots”? What do we say to those who have a problem with patriotism? What do we say to each other when we find ourselves wavering in our support of the mission God has given our nation?
This is what we say, “Look at our history. It gives us ample evidence that God created and sustained this nation, and contiues to use this nation to lead the world toward Him as our ultimate source of hope and help. History tells us that when we have lived as ‘One nation under God’, and have not only said ‘In God we trust’, but did really trust in God, then God has given us victory”. We say to them “Look at the Bible. It reveals the one and only true God, as one who desires that we live in peace with Him and each other, but at times finds it necessary to engage in war to achieve the ultimate goal of peace.
If you believe in this one and only true God, then you must believe the evidence He gives through the Bible and American history. Then you can be assured that we can turn to Him as our first and ultimate source of hope and help. We can pray ‘God Bless America’, knowing that He will answer. Then without question,we can be assured that the victory, which belongs to God, will also be ours. And those who have served, fought, and died, who we honor and remember today, will not have done so in vain.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray