Don’s Speeches and Writings

Delivered during services at Dighton Memorial Cemetery

May 26, 2008

As we gather here today to remember and honor those who have gone before, and in particular those who have served in the military, the three concepts of service, sacrifice, and freedom come to my mind. I believe service is the essence of society and community. Service creates an interdependence, a connectedness among people. And for many of us, being in service to others is an act of Christian faith as we strive to lead our lives in a spirit of Christ-like love. I believe everyone is capable of serving society and fellow man in some way, and I encourage each individual to look for that form of service that matches your abilities best. Obviously we are all in service as we go about our daily work, providing the goods and services society demands, growing our food, educating our youth, providing health care, etc. But some folks go beyond that level of service to be of help to others in their time of need, providing comfort and support. Some are active in service clubs. Others enter public service, serving on school boards, city councils, county commissions, or maybe even state legislatures. These services are essential, and our society could not function if there were no individuals willing to serve in these ways. And yet all of these forms of service pale in comparison to the service performed by those who enter the military, and that is because military service involves those other two concepts I mentioned earlier: sacrifice and freedom.

I never served in the military because my poor eyesight prevented it. I was able to continue my schooling instead. But coming of age during the Viet Nam War era, I felt deeply grateful for all my contemporaries who did serve. The Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington D.C. is a special place for any member of my generation, and I have been fortunate to be able to visit it several times. I can’t make that visit without getting choked up. And my emotion and gratitude is not only to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives, but extends to all who served, because they too made a great sacrifice. In some cases the sacrifice was physical, in other cases it was emotional or psychological. And sometimes the price paid was in lost opportunities in life. Everyone who serves in the military makes a tremendous sacrifice and their lives are forever changed because of it. I recognize that the sacrifice they make is greater than the sacrifice made by those of us who serve in other ways.

Why is their service and sacrifice so important? Because they insure our continued freedom, and it is that freedom that defines our society and our way of life. It is a cliché to say that we take our freedoms for granted, but it is a cliché because it is true. If we were ever to lose our freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of association we would surely miss them greatly. Perhaps the most important freedom is economic freedom. A few years ago the well known television journalist John Stossel became curious about why some nation’s economies were robust and growing rapidly while others were stagnant or in decline. You might guess that democracy is important, and he did discover that is a factor. But the single most important element in gauging the strength of an economy is the degree to which its markets are free and regulation is minimized. Economic growth occurs when individuals have the freedom to decide what to produce and how to market that production. Economic growth occurs when individuals have the freedom to experiment, to innovate, to find ways to produce better and more efficiently, and to be rewarded by the marketplace when they do. An economy becomes slow and lethargic when over-regulation stifles incentive and reduces output. An economy becomes slow and lethargic when central planning replaces individual initiative. An economy becomes slow and lethargic when substandard producers are artificially supported and the freedom to fail is removed. The economy of the United States of America is the largest and most robust economy in the entire world, and it has been our system of economic freedom, our system of free market capitalism, that has made it possible. The wisdom of our founding fathers gave birth to this system, but it is protected and perpetuated through the service and sacrifice of those who have served and are now serving in the military. So I ask you to join me today in reflecting on the many freedoms that we really do tend to take for granted, and I ask you to join me in giving thanks and honor to those who have served through dedicated military service.