Contact: AJ Freeney-Ruiz
Memorial Day - 2006
Thank you and good morning.
First of all - it's an honor to be here with you at the Indiana Veterans' Home - our state's only veterans' home. Thank you for letting me share this time with you all. It means a great deal to me that you have asked me to join you.
As many of you can personally attest, Memorial Day is much more than a three-day weekend that marks the beginning of summer. More than most, you know that we are gathered here today to remember the men and women, who for hundreds of years have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country, protecting this great Republic.
But, does the rest of our society really know what that means?
Official observances of Memorial Day began shortly after the Civil War. And for the last one-hundred and forty years, as a nation, we have held this day sacred or so we should. In years past, we have gathered to remember our friends, family members and loved-ones who died for our country in two World Wars, in Korea, in Vietnam, the Gulf War and numerous less well-known conflicts around the globe - but no less important.
Today, many of our thoughts are with our brave men and women in uniform fighting to defend liberty and freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the global War on Terror. And don't let anyone try to tell you, whether it be the French, the Canadians, or the so-called mainstream media that the stakes of the global war are not high.
Indeed, our men and women currently serving are trying to maintain for us a way of life that we know to be morally correct and economically fruitful. A way of life that every day is being threatened by the wrath of maniacs who kill in the name of a religion that they themselves hi-jacked. Similarly, we are all being threatened by the jealousy of a seemingly ever-increasing number of nations who are apparently bent on a socialist agenda for the entire world. Indeed, the stakes are high if you are one that loves this country in its near recent social form.
However, we see that our troops in Iraq are not engaged in a new fight. No not at all - because today, it is impossible not to turn our thoughts to the allied soldiers who sixty-two years ago this summer, landed on the beaches of Normandy, invaded Hitler's Fortress Europa, and freed an entire continent from the brutal grasp of a dictatorial and murderous regime. Indeed, not a new fight.
Many of you, in fact the majority of those of you living here today, fought in that war and because of that, you understand what the stakes are now. You and your brothers and sisters who fought in Korea, Vietnam, and the first Iraq war, and who join you here at the Indiana Veterans' Home, understand what it means to keep the evil of the world at bay.
In our nation's history, there have always been people willing to serve their country in uniform. They serve their nation and their fellow citizens with honor and dignity and when called upon, they bravely sacrifice their own life in the name of freedom and I never more clearly recognized this sacrifice than when I was in Vietnam last fall - representing the state.
While in Vietnam, I had the opportunity to meet and receive a personal briefing with the commander of the United States' ongoing mission to find our fallen in the region. We are the only country in the world to still search for and retrieve every one of our soldiers from the battlefield. That is not only Vietnam, but all wars, present and past. To date we still have 1,800 of our troops unaccounted for from the Vietnam War alone, and have similar missions to find the more than 8,000 in Korea and 30,000 still missing from the theaters of World War II. Never have I been more proud than that day in Hanoi - as I learned of our country's practice.
With that said, I would like to specifically thank and welcome those servicemen and women who are able to join not just in spirit, but to be physically with us today. For those with relatives in the service, you should know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your brothers and sisters-in-arms wherever they may go.
Thank you for your dedication to your community and your country, you're an inspiration to us all.
It is also important to note that the hundreds of thousands of men and women serving today in Afghanistan and Iraq are an entirely volunteer corps. They choose to serve because, like thousands before them who served in the armed forces, they love their country.
We should not forget their volunteerism and the best way to remember it is to incorporate volunteerism into our own lives. And to preserve our way of life, we don't necessarily have to volunteer for the Armed Forces.
Everyone can do their part to help preserve our way of life by volunteering in other ways. As I travel the state, I encourage Hoosiers to give to their favorite charity, at the hospital, at their church, using their God-given talents free of charge in thousands of ways to help others. Our volunteer spirit is what sets us apart from other nations - and can be something that no one can take from us.
Moments like this give me pause and allow me to reflect on the true meaning of the work the people of Indiana entrusted to me as Secretary of State. As Indiana's Chief Election Officer, I am charged with the duty of protecting the very fabric of our Republic - our right to vote. But of course it isn't me or the county clerks who give the right to vote - to pick our own leaders. It is God, using the United States soldier that assures that freedom! You have sacrificed so much to protect not only our own liberties, but also the liberties of other countries. Speaking before you today, I am encouraged to continue to do what is in my power to guarantee the right and ability of each of you to vote and to have your vote count! But not only you, every eligible Hoosier. For an eligible Hoosier to not vote is an insult to this country, this state, to you, and especially your fellow Brother-in-Arms.
Just as many of you did generations ago to protect freedom, today's armed forces have dodged bullets and bombs so that Iraqis and Afghanis may rise out of their seats and exercise their sacred right to vote. We, as Americans, have much to learn from their actions. We must strive every day to convince Hoosiers to take their duty to vote more seriously by securing the integrity our elections without compromising all that we've done to open up the process. Seeing soldiers prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect this liberty and voters willing to do the same, I find the inspiration to continue to help our soldiers defend our right to vote here at home.
Today as we remember those who have gone before us to defend liberty and freedom, and as we honor you and your contributions, let us also remember the young men and women currently serving around the globe, fighting the war on terror.
May God bless you, and all that you have given and continue to give and let us never forget!