Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day 2014: Needham's Fallen Brave

This morning, on the eve of Memorial Day, a beautiful new bronze plaque honoring Needham’s young men who died in service to our great country was dedicated in the high school’s foyer.  Dr. Jonathan Pizzi, Needham High School principal, shared the following remarks at the solemn ceremony:
WWII Vets unveil new memorial
Students read off names of the 97 Fallen Brave

Ladies and Gentlemen, Honored Guests, Town Officials, Colleagues, students, and most importantly, Veterans of Our Armed Forces:

It is with great pride and honor, as well as with a deep sense of sorrow, gratitude, and respect that Needham High School is able to provide once again a rightful and conspicuous place with which to honor our community’s Fallen Brave.  These individuals answered a call and lived and died knowing that they were fighting for a set of ideals and a cause that transcended their own individual interests.  They knew that the creation and then the very existence of this great nation depended upon their acting against human nature and advancing toward situations from which others fled in terror.

In many ways today’s enemies of freedom are not as readily identifiable as a Confederate Raider or a Panzer tank.  Of course the omnipresent threats of war and terrorism force us to live in a state of constant vigilance and anxiety regarding our personal safety.  To my students especially, however, I offer this: pervasive individualism, moral relativism, indeed the intrusive practices of our own government agencies, threaten the very freedoms for which the 97 individuals named here fought and gave their lives.  The ideals of our Founding Fathers as spelled out in our Constitution are ours to study, to practice, and above all, to protect.   Consequently, and more so than the acquisition of any amount of material wealth, the education you receive here bestows upon each of you the responsibility to grow your intelligence, your critical thinking, and your participation in our democracy so that the new enemies of our way of life – and there are many - can be defeated at every turn.

In his memoirs, Winston Churchill penned the following words to describe the deluge of emotion that swept over him after learning of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941: “Saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful, for I knew I was now on the winning side.”

Long after this dedication ceremony has concluded and as we gaze and reflect upon this memorial to the 97 Fallen Brave, let us remember our quintessential responsibility to protect our basic American ideals and rights and allow ourselves to be swept up in the same emotions of sadness, relief, and gratitude as Britain’s then Prime Minister, and never, ever take for granted that whether at Bunker Hill, Antietam, Meuse-Argonne, the Ardennes Forest, the Pussan Perimeter, or Khe San, these soldiers and sailors made the ultimate sacrifice that we may ever sleep the sleep of the saved and thankful.   Thank you.

James H. Powers, USMC and WWII Veteran, honors his brother Pete who died in the Battle of the Bulge

1 comment: