By David Slone
WARSAW — American ideals are perseverance, hard work and dedication, and the United States must return to those ideals, according to Ken Locke, chairman of the Honor and Remember Committee for Salvation Army Envoy Kosciusko County, member of the American Legion Post 49 and veteran.
Locke was the guest speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at the Preacher’s Stand at Oakwood Cemetery in Warsaw.
“John F. Kennedy expressed many years ago, ‘As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to speak the words but to live by them,'” said Locke in his introduction. “I want to watch today with you thinking that it’s very important to say words but it’s more important to live by them.”
He said it was important for us to express our gratitude.
“On May 30, 1868, 5,000 people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery. It was the first Memorial Day. At that time, it was called Decoration Day. Congressman James Garfield, who later became president, said these words: “For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made their patriotism and virtue immortal,” said Locke.
Since then, thousands have been buried in Arlington and thousands have been buried across America who have made sacrifices for our country so that we have the freedoms we have today, he said.
“We remember this day that all of our veterans who have passed away, this day is for them and we say thank you,” Locke said. “Most importantly, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in battle. We must never forget. A nation that forgets the sacrifice of those who came before it will not survive. We must never forget.
On Memorial Day, he said we keep alive the memory of those who died for our country. We remember those who loved our country more than life, he said, and made the ultimate sacrifice.
An estimated 42 million Americans served in the military. Of those 42 million, Locke said, 650,000 were killed in action and another 539,000 died of wounds or other non-combat issues.
“Many Americans served. Many also died,” he said.
When you think of the battles in which America intervened, Locke said the bloodiest battle Americans had ever served in was the Meuse-Argonne in 1918. The American lives lost numbered 26,277. Locke said stated that Argonne Road in Warsaw is named after this battle to honor fallen men.
During the Battle of the Bulge, more than 19,200 Americans died. In Gettysburg, during the Civil War, 51,000 people died on both sides.
“We can go on and on, listing the battles and the number of Americans who have died. Even so far in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the number of those killed now is smaller, they are still sacrificing” their lives, he said. “A life is a great sacrifice for our country. We honor them today.”
America has survived 246 years, says Locke.
“And one of the reasons, one of the main reasons that we survived is because of the men and women who put on the uniform and went to places – sometimes to hell and back – to give us the freedoms we have today,” he said. said.
“Don’t kid yourself. Freedom is not free. In all reality, there is nothing free in this country, in this life. Everything has a price. Someone has to work to pay. And, yes, men and women are leaving and dying to secure what we have today.
What Kennedy was saying to each of us, Locke says, returning to his opening remarks, is that we must live up to their sacrifice.
“General Douglas MacArthur said, ‘I am concerned about the security of our great nation. Not so much because of an outside threat, but because of insidious forces working from within,” Locke said. “There seems to be a dismantling of America lately. There’s a lot of disunity. But I’ll tell you, by serving in the military, you learn unity very quickly. I’ve never served in combat but I will tell you that when we were training, you learned that the most important person is the person next to you.
He said you didn’t care what color they were or what religion or where they were from, you just hoped you could get through and survive and go all the way.
“We need this kind of unity in this country. We must meet again. There is a question about American ideals,” he said, but if America is to survive, it must return to those ideals.
“These ideals when young men and women went out to serve, knowing that we have great blessings in this country. It is that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. … This does not come from the government. It comes from God. We must preserve it. We have to protect it,” Locke said.
“The American ideals are perseverance, hard work and dedication,” he said.
If you get knocked down, you get up and walk away.
“And somehow we seem to be moving away from that in this country,” Locke continued. “We have to get back to those ideals.”
He said America was not perfect, but other people who have served in other parts of this world are eager to return to the United States to enjoy the freedoms we have here.
“The price was paid in blood, sweat and tears for us to be here enjoying this foundation of freedom. And we have to be very careful not to waste it. Let’s not waste it. This does not happen by chance. It comes with a price. That is why we gather today to remember. We remember someone gave their all so we could have what we have today,” Locke said.
He said Kennedy also said something else really interesting that probably wouldn’t be as popular today.
“He said, ‘Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ There are too many people now who look to the government for handouts instead of a helping hand to make this place a better place. Yes, it’s time for us to return to those American ideals,” Locke said.
Concluding his remarks, he spoke of being grateful that he was able to wake up one more day.
“May I say to each of you today, when you look in the mirror, thank God you have had another revival in America. This is truly the land of the free and the homeland of the brave. We still have a lot of work to do to make it this city on a hill, but let’s never forget, but someone gave us this freedom at the ultimate price they paid,” he said.
Additionally, as part of the Memorial Day Ceremony, the Warsaw Community High School Band performed and the JROTC Color Guard displayed and removed the colors. Auxiliary Unit 49 President Kathy Breske read the poem “Come Visit My Grave” by Jim Rolfes and read the names of American Legion Post 49 members who died in the past year before a moment of silence is observed.
After Locke’s remarks, John Mort and Breske, commander of Post 49 of the American Legion, along with the JROTC Color Guard, laid wreaths at each of the three veterans’ circles at Oakwood Cemetery. The Legion Honor Guard then fired a three-round volley, followed by Taps play by WCHS Band members and JROTC cadets Joaquin Viera and Mariana Conde.