Republican radio address

For the weekend of May 30-31, 2010

Greetings, this is Jarrod Crockett, state representative from Bethel.

For many Americans across Maine and the nation, Memorial Day is a time for family barbeques and picnics. It marks the start of summer – the school year is almost over and swimming pools are opening. But we should never forget what Memorial Day really is – that special day when we remember and pay our respects to those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who lost their lives fighting for our country.

In countless ceremonies across the land, we will remember the 400,000 Americans who fell in World War II; the 33,000 who died in Korea; the 58,000 who never came back from Vietnam, and the thousands more who died in other wars and are now making the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will visit the cemeteries and note the dates of their shortened lives on the headstones, knowing that each one lost was someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife. And we know that freedom could easily perish if we did not have this breed of men and women who rally to our country’s side in time of need.

As a veteran of an 18-month tour in Afghanistan, my mind drifts back to Memorial Day 2007. I was the combat advisor to an Afghan infantry company, and we were stationed at a small outpost along the Pakistan border called Forward Operating Base Tillman. The whistle of mortars coming in a couple of times a week always had you asking yourself the inevitable question – “Is this the day?” We traveled along a one-vehicle-wide trail we called a road, and I still remember the burnt smell mixed with dust after the explosion of an IED. We were fighting alongside the Afghans to rid their country of Taliban insurgents and other terrorists who bomb schools and medical clinics and commit other unspeakable atrocities.

We were operating in rugged terrain; and as you ran along some rocky hillside trying to outmaneuver the guys shooting at you, you had to bear up under the heat and under the weight of body armor, a radio, extra ammo, signaling beacons and an assortment of other equipment we carried in the field. I remember the faces of fellow soldiers who had talked about their families, told you their dreams, who confided in you, and whom you trusted to get the job done no matter how tough the challenge. These were people who shared a common belief that there are causes that are worth fighting for – and even dying for. Those soldiers believed in something greater than themselves. They are our country’s finest citizens, America’s backbone, who voluntarily stood their post on freedom’s ramparts far from home. And they trace their heritage back to the hardscrabble farmers and villagers who defeated the British in the American Revolution; and the men of Patton’s Third Army, who marched day and night, through heavy snow, for 48 hours, to take on the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge.

America’s sons and daughters have been called upon time and again to defend our freedom and our way of life. As we reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day, countless images come to mind. A mother running a finger over her son’s name at the Vietnam Memorial. A monument of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. The honor guard at Arlington Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown, maintaining his silent vigil.

On this Memorial Day, we especially want to honor those who served in World War II. Their generation is now passing from the scene, and we are all the poorer for their loss. Without their strong dedication and willingness to endure tremendous hardship, the cause of freedom, decency and sanity in the world would not have prevailed.

We also should teach our children about the sacrifices that have given them freedom and the rights granted in our Constitution. We must help the coming generation to understand that the act of committing yourself to your country and fighting for the freedom of others is among the most noble of endeavors. In too many schools today, our children are taught to be ashamed of their country. It is up to us to make sure they understand the ideals of America. I think President Reagan said it best – “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Enjoy this Memorial Day weekend with your family and friends. But remember those fallen heroes whose sacrifices made this day possible. This is Jarrod Crockett. Thank you so much for listening.