Wreaths Across America - Pray for the Fallen (Isaiah 6:8)
Saturday, December 19, 2020 is National Wreaths Across America Day. It is a day set aside to remember and honor America’s military veterans who have passed on. Unlike Memorial Day on which we honor those who fell in combat, on Wreaths-Across-America Day we honor all veterans who have passed on. The ceremonies are held in more than 2,000 military cemeteries nationwide. Wreaths are placed on the graves of every fallen veteran in the cemetery.
I was honored to be the keynote speaker at one of these ceremonies. My blog today is the brief speech I gave on that hallowed occasion. I share it with you in the hope you will join me and thousands of others across our country in saying a prayer for all departed military personnel who served to protect the God-given freedoms all Americans enjoy.
It is an honor and a privilege to stand before you today to remember the men and women who dedicated their lives—and in some cases gave their lives—to protect our great nation from enemies who would take from us those sacred, God-given freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. As Americans we are accustomed to being able to freely choose those who represent us in government, decide for ourselves what careers we will pursue, shop wherever we wish, vacation anywhere we can afford, drive across state lines without the need for internal passports, send our children to public, private, or Christian schools, or even homeschool if we wish, and practice our religions without interference from government. These are just a few examples of the God-given freedoms enjoyed by all Americans. Unfortunately, it is easy to take these freedoms for granted.
This is why it is so important to do what we are gathered here to do this morning: remember those who served so that we might always appreciate the price that is paid for the freedoms we enjoy. From the plains at Yorktown to the Courthouse at Appomattox, from the trenches on the Marne to the sands of Iwo Jima, from the icy mountains of the Chosin Reservoir to the steamy jungles of Viet Nam, and from the arid deserts of Iraq to the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, American patriots have put their lives on the line for more than 240 years so you and I and all Americans can continue to breathe the fresh air of freedom. Therefore, it is altogether fitting and proper that we should take time out to remember these heroes by laying wreaths of honor at their graves.
But I want to inject an important caveat here. We are not here to honor the deaths of these military heroes. We do that on Memorial Day. Rather, we are here to remember and honor their lives. On every grave marker in this hallowed place, you will find a date of birth and a date of death. It is what they did between those two dates that we remember today. In keeping with the mission of National Wreaths Across America Day, we REMEMBER their lives of service, we HONOR them for their sacrifices, and we TEACH others about those sacrifices.
As we lay wreaths at 1,700 graves here today and at hundreds of thousands of graves in other military cemeteries across the country, let us remember that every one of them honors an individual who answered the call of his or her nation; heroes who when their nation needed them followed the Biblical example of Isaiah when God called him. Like Isaiah they said: “Here I am, send me.” Dr. Martin Luther King once said: “If a man hasn’t discovered something he is willing to die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Those we honor today had something they were willing to die for: the greatest nation God ever created—the United States of America.
As we lay wreaths at the graves of our departed heroes today, we satisfy two of the goals of Wreaths Across America: Remember and Honor. I encourage everyone here to also remember the third goal: TEACH. President Ronald Reagan once said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed down for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was like in the United States when men were free.”
Ladies and gentlemen—fellow Patriots—I encourage you in the strongest terms to teach your children and grandchildren about the things that make America both good and great. Make sure they understand that the freedom and liberty they enjoy every day is not a given—that it comes at a cost.
I have written 75 textbooks that are used in schools and colleges throughout our nation, and I can tell you there is a battle of ideas taking place right now among those who write the books our children use in school and in college. Many of these books are being written by people who reject everything America stands for; people who engage in historical revisionism to paint a distorted, inaccurate, and negative picture of our great nation and its hallowed history.
I recently reviewed a high school history textbook in which the only coverage of World War II consisted of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. There was nothing in the book about Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, the Bataan Death March, D-Day, or anything else of significance about that terrible war. Nor was there any mention of how America rebuilt Europe after the war with the Marshall Plan. When we leave here today having honored and remembered 1,700 individuals who answered the call on our behalf, let us commit to teaching each successive generation why these heroes were willing to sacrifice so much and what they sacrificed for.
In closing, let me thank all military veterans, active-duty warriors, and their families, not just here, but throughout our great nation for their service and sacrifice. I am going to give President Abraham Lincoln the last word today by quoting a few lines from his Gettysburg Address that are just as relevant now as they were in 1863: The great man said, “It is rather for us, the living, to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that our nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
God bless those we remember today and their families, God bless our living veterans, God bless our active-duty warriors and their families, and God bless America.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.