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Not for glory, honor or fame

May 29, 2004

Ira Joe Davis

Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by thanking the leadership of the

American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

for allowing me to participate in your Memorial Day ceremonies.

Memorial Day has a special significance to me, and I am truly honored

to be with you today.

When I accepted your invitation to speak, I was presented with a

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dilemma. You see, I received several "canned" speeches to choose from

for today's message. They are prepared by professional speechwriters,

and all are superior speeches, although they normally include some

hidden agenda like the need for a stronger military, or the success

of our latest military intervention. However, I felt that these

topics miss the true meaning of Memorial Day, and so I chose not to

use any of them, and wrote my own speech instead. I ask your

forgiveness if my comments are not as polished as you may be

accustomed to, but they are more sincere.

Most of us are familiar with the adage, "Old soldiers never die,

they just fade away." That saying is grossly untrue on two counts,

and that is what I wish to comment upon for the next few minutes.

First of all, old soldiers do die, often in combat; and so do

young soldiers, and sailors, and Marines, and airmen. Service

members, young and old, men and women, from every branch of military

service, die defending our country and our way of life. They fight in

popular and unpopular wars, in countries all over the world. They

carry the American flag, and the ideals and values for which it

stands, to every corner of the world.

They don't go for glory, or honor, or fame. They go because their

duly elected officials, who represent the American people, including

you and me, ask them to place themselves in harm's way. They

sacrifice family, friends, and often their lives, to serve their

country. The New Testament tells us that there is no greater love

than to give your life for another. Our fallen comrades have

demonstrated that love, and that is what Memorial Day is all about.

The second misconception is that old soldiers just "fade away."

Our fallen comrades didn't fade away. In most cases, they were simply

forgotten. One reason for this is that the true meaning of Memorial

Day has been lost by the majority of the American people. To most

Americans, Memorial Day is simply one of the federal holidays that

bracket the summer season. Memorial Day for them marks the beginning

of summer, the opening of the community swimming pool, the start of a

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