Editor’s note: The following was requested for reprint by readers who attended Memorial Day services at Itasca County Calvary Cemetery in Grand Rapids on Memorial Day, May 27. Itasca County Veteran’s Service Officer Luke St. Germain was the keynote speaker and gave the following address:
I am deeply grateful to stand here with you today. Across our Nation, state, and county, people are gathering together on this day to specifically honor those killed in service to our nation. There is no observance in America more somber than Memorial Day.
Memorial Day has a rich history. Commemoration of the end of the Civil War, May 5, 1868 was named “Decoration Day.” This was a day set aside for the nation to decorate the graves of the fallen.
In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress. More recently, in December of 2000, U.S. Congress passed, and the President signed into law, “the National Moment of Remembrance Act” to encourage all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the Nation.
This past week you may have seen on the news that in Minnesota, we had the honor of bringing one of our brothers’ home to rest. Nineteen-year-old Dante Tini, of Virginia, Minn., sent his belongings home and was set to return home on leave in just three days.
I would like to read to you a telegraph sent Dec. 20, 1941, to the family of Dante:
“The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son Dante Sylvester Tini, radioman third class U.S. Navy, is missing following action in the performance of duty and in the service of his country. The Department appreciates your great anxiety and will furnish further information promptly when received. To prevent possible aid to our enemies please do not divulge the name of his ship or station. Signed, Admiral Randolph Jacobs, Chief of Division, Navy.”
Imagine getting that telegraph.
His nieces recently shared that the whole neighborhood could hear his mother scream when the telegraph was delivered. We now know that Dante was one of a handful of Minnesotans aboard the USS Oklahoma, when torpedoes ripped through the hull on Dec. 7, 1941 in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
Last week, 77 years later, Dante’s remains came home.
On this day, our hearts go out to them, and to the spouses, children, parents, and loved ones of those whose lives have been changed forever by the untimely death of a hero.
The price of freedom is high, but it is measured in the lives of generations to come. Time and again, during eras of great need, young Americans secured a legacy of peace and liberty for us, and for future generations. This is measured by the more than one million lives that have been laid down since our nation’s founding.
Life and liberty are God-given rights, but throughout history, the task of defending these high ideals has fallen to ordinary men and women of extraordinary courage and fortitude.
Let us never stop educating our children about the price that has been paid for their freedom.
A trip with them to one of our sacred shrines – our Veterans cemeteries– is a good place to start. But we also need to teach our children, and grandchildren, to respect our Nation’s Colors. It can be as simple as teaching them to stand up and place their hand over their heart when the Colors pass by in a parade - or when the National Anthem is played.
We can also honor the legacy of sacrifice by spending time with veterans who are living, and if you are a veteran, by sharing your own experiences.
I know personally that sharing our stories can be difficult, but we must share our stories and talk about the kind of men and woman we knew. The day I came home from Afghanistan I in-processed at my base and it seemed like a pretty good day to be home, but that quickly faded. I went home and was told by my wife that my team was on the news. I turned on the TV to see that three men I served side by side with had been killed in action. Sgt. Christopher Ward was the picture perfect solder who was on his third deployment at the age of 24; he was quiet, tough, and kind of intimidating. Specials Delfin Santos was someone who didn’t care about making the next rank. He always did what he needed to do and never complained. His platoon leader was there by his side when he passed away and told us that Santos died with a smile on his face. SPC Wilbel Robles was from Puerto Rico. He was a husband and a father of two, who joined the Army to better the lives of his family. He served proudly and was loved by all the men he served with.
No greater sacrifice could ever be asked of an individual. The service of these Veterans has impacted the life of every single one of us. We can’t even begin to imagine the world today, had the men and women we honor on Memorial Day not stood fast against our enemies throughout history.
In closing, I encourage you to spend time with your loved ones and families this Memorial Day weekend, but to also remember it is the sacrifice that others have made that has given us the opportunity to enjoy this weekend. Thank you for taking the time to reflect and remember.