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Fairmount American Legion
Milton Stevenson Post 106

Fairmount, North Dakota


The Fairmount War Memorial
A testimony of devotion and sacrifice

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Memorial Page


Terry Tilton:
Memorial Day Address:
May 31, 2004
Fairmount, N.D.

Good Morning;

I want to especially commend your Legion Post in Fairmount for hosting this Memorial Day program and all the Legion and Veteran's of Foreign Wars Posts throughout our nation that continue to keep alive our remembrance of this special day.

Today we observe our nation's 137th Memorial Day. Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868 with flowers placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

General John. H. Logan, Commander and Chief of the Army issued General Orders No.11, in WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868.

It proclaimed:The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

We are gathered here today to honor those veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. We do honor and pay homage to their memories for their sacrifices. Their sacrifices were on our behalf and they were great and they were many.

Our Founding Fathers carefully prioritized our freedoms. In the Declaration of Independence they stated, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

They are placed in our Declaration in a critically important order. First life, then liberty, and then the pursuit of happiness. One cannot infringe upon the liberty or life of another in the pursuit of happiness just as one cannot take another's life while seeking ones own liberty. "We are endowed by our Creator" means they are God given rights. And the most important of the God given rights is the right to life, yet only in liberty do we find happiness.

As precious as life is, your liberty and mine have been purchased with the blood of patriots. And in the history of this great nation, over one million brave Americans have given all that they had, all that they were, in exchange for your freedom and mine.

As we reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day countless images come to mind. Depending on your age it might be a monument of six marines raising Old Glory atop Mt. Suribachi. Or a mother running a finger over her son's name on the Vietnam Wall. Or for others a time of remembrance by visiting the beaches of Normandy which were stormed by mightiest armada ever assembled 60 years ago this week. Or for a new generation of Americans the historic dedication of the long-awaited WWII memorial in Washington D.C Or perhaps, the images of the soldiers of our National Guard units going off to stations in Iraq or the glad images of joyous reunions with family upon their return.

These images serve as constant reminders of those who gave their lives for something greater than themselves. The freedoms we enjoy stem from their sacrifices. We who benefit for the sacrifices of these soldiers must always remember the price they paid…and that freedom, indeed, is not free. Someone has penned this Memorial Day poem:

A Memorial Day Poem

I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Service man saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil
How many mothers' tears?

How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still,
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.

I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin.
Of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

Author Unknown

Like America's wars before it, Iraq and Afghanistan are today America's stand for freedom against all the forces of terrorism, tyranny and oppression which would destroy the basic rights of all human beings. Say what you will, believe as you might, when our nation's military are called to duty and sacrifice they have not shirked their duty and it is good that we remember them and their families on this special day.

Those whom we especially remember and honor each Memorial Day - our hallowed war dead - now number more than one million. That is more than one million Americans who have given the last full measure of devotion while serving our nation.

The following words, inscribed at Arlington National Cemetery, are dedicated to them: "Not for fame or reward, not for place or rank, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all-and died."

The lives and service of our nation's veterans span every decade, every year, every day of our country's existence. Surely we owe them much.

It is up to us the living to give meaning to their sacrifice. To do that, our own dedication to America's spiritual and national values must be steadfast. We, and our children after us, must be devoted to those principles for which these heroic citizens gave their lives. By holding fast to the same principles they cherished and by teaching our children about our country's history and the vital role veterans played to make this history possible, we begin to repay the debt.The price of freedom is constant vigilance. We do not come here this morning to glory in war. It represents humanity's greatest failure to find ways to live in peace. Yet, sometimes there can be no peace while there is compromise with evil. America is not always right but surely we strive as Americans to do right - not from selfish or superior designs but from a sincere hope and belief in the basic dignity of all peoples to live in peace and harmony, in well-being to the fullest of their potential.

Today, we gain strength from what so many have done-from their devotion and their patriotism-and are inspired to honor the cause for which they died. For shining moments in history, they have held our nation's destiny in their hands -- And did not fail us. We must not fail them now. For more than 220 years our military has been a bastion against America's enemies.

In that time, our world has changed and our Armed Forces have changed with it, but the valor, dignity, and courage of the men and women in uniform remain the same.

All too often, we as Americans forget the responsibility we have to keep the memory of those brave men and women alive. All too often, we forget how fortunate we are to live in a democracy where there is no fear of oppression -- as there exists in many parts of the world today. We are a nation blessed with many privileges, but, as late Franklin Delano Roosevelt said over sixty years ago, "Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them."

Let us not forget today why we live in this the greatest democracy of our world. And let us not forget all the men and women throughout our history who have fought to their dying breath so that we may live-in freedom.

And, finally let us not forget, Memorial Day is also a time for remembering those who still stand in duty stations in hundreds of places around the world - on the ramparts of freedom, their future unknown. Let us keep all of them, and their families, in our prayers. May God bless the United States of America and the America's true heroes who we honor today.

Thank you again for your invitation. God bless you!

Pastor, Terry Tilton,
Breckenridge, Minnesota
United Methodist Church