As he stood at the podium to read a Memorial Day proclamation from the city Monday, Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings said that sometimes the words on a piece of paper do not seem to be enough when honoring those that gave their life in their country’s service is the topic of the day.
He said proclamations often have a lot of therefores and whereases, and talk about soldiers paying the ultimate price.
“In hard reality, what they don’t say is that they died,” Hastings said. “They had taken away all they were going to be or could have been, and that’s what Memorial Day is about. We are what we have become or are going to be, but they never had that chance. That’s a debt we can never repay.”
Gary Smaltz, speaking for the Highland County Veterans Service Commission, thanked a large crowd for turning out for the observance held at the veterans memorial at the Highland County Courthouse.
“It is humbling when you see this many people come out to honor the veterans,” Smaltz said.
The guest speaker for the day was Alex Butler, a 2009 Hillsboro High School graduate and lieutenant with the U.S. Army Reserves.
”I am grateful for the invitation to come and share a few thoughts with you this morning. When I was invited I knew I was available, but confess I was a little hesitant to accept,” Butler said. “Memorial Day speakers I’ve been treated to are usually veterans who have been deployed abroad and made tremendous contributions to our community and nation. I consider this a tremendous honor to address you today and I hope my words are worthy of the occasion.”
Butler said that about a year ago he decided to follow is heart and become a member of the military.
“Although my military career is just beginning, I do stand before you as someone who has reaped the benefits of the sacrifice of those we remember today,” he said. “I stand before you as one who has grown up with peace in the homeland and succeeded in the blessings of liberty and freedom. It is from this perspective I address you today; as a grateful young man who has had every opportunity in the world because of what others have sacrificed. I praise God for the men and women on whose sacrifice we stand.”
He said he did not make the uniform he was wearing, but rather the uniform made him.
“For generations Americans have answered the call of freedom. For generations the sons of Highland County have risen up when tyranny and evil have threatened our way of life. I know it’s becoming increasingly popular to bow to the global power structures and forfeit our sovereignty in the name of international cooperation and the greater good,” Butler said. “I know some in our own universities shamefully portray America as a tyrannical, imperialist, oppressive power that has gotten to where we are today only by taking from others. Again, I say shame on them. This is not true.
“America and our fallen heroes have always been on the side of the oppressed, the side of those unable to defend themselves, on the side of noble intentions. Because of the veterans and those who have given their lives, we are free to chose our leaders, criticize our government, free to pursue a better life for ourselves and family in the best fashion we see fit, free to worship, free to organize.”
From the cobblestone streets of Lexington and Concord, the fields of Europe, the blood stained beaches of Normandy, the Islands of the Pacific, and anywhere an American soldier has trod, Butler said, one thing has remained constant — the selfless fight for the sake of freedom.
“If you are not free you are not anything. The natural rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness listed in the Declaration of Independence mean nothing if you are not free. If you are not free your life is not your own, you cannot exercise liberty. If you are not free you cannot pursue your own personal happiness. If you are not free, you are nothing,” Butler said.
It is time, he said, for a restoration of good old-fashioned “Americanism.”
“Devotion and loyalty to our country, our flag and what it represents, our traditions, customs, culture, and form of government. I would think such an effort would transcend political parties, race, religion, economic statues, and other differences that often divide our people. Freedom is good for everyone. Peace is a fragile commodity that must be vigilantly preserved,” Butler said. “It’s a very divisive time for our country.”
In closing, he said the country’s determination, resiliency, and pure grit is rivaled by none.
“For generations we have overcome the most difficult threats and challenges to our way of life, foreign and domestic,” he said. “We are a freedom loving and independent people. Our cultural DNA makes the yearning for freedom and liberty instinctive to all true Americans. What we fight for, sacrifice for, endure, and die for is worth it all.
“Let our courage rise with danger, determination rise to meet the challenge, and let our patriotism and defense of American values forever be without apology. May God bless you, and God bless America.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.