Memorial Day 2019
Memorial Day Parade and Memorial Service
May 27, 2019
Just over a month ago, flags flew at half mast in honor of three Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice on Monday, April 8, 2019, in service of our country.
Three brave Marines were added to the list of fallen warriors who gave their lives in service of this Nation. These three Marines were killed not far from Bagram Airfield in the Parwan Province in North East Afghanistan. Their names were:
Sgt. Benjamin Hines of York, PA
Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman of Newark, DE and
Cpl. Robert Hendriks of Locust Valley, N.Y.
Sgt. Benjamin Hines was a local hero. He graduated from Dallastown High School in 2006, was involved in football, and was one of two graduating commanders of Dallastown’s first year of offering a Marine Corps JROTC Program.
Hines enlisted in the Marine Corps right out of high school and earned military honors including a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, two Iraq Campaign Medals and a Meritorious Mast signifying noteworthy performance.
I share just part of the story that brought Sgt. Hines to his final moment in Afghanistan to illustrate our nation’s ongoing endeavor to reconcile the pain that always comes with war with our understanding that service and sacrifice are necessary to protect and advance the values of a nation founded on freedom and justice. This reconciliation is most difficult when we live through or witness that pain first hand. And, for those closest to the loss, it’s not uncommon to ask was it worth it? Were the service and sacrifice worth the reward?
June 6, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. Better known as the “D-Day” invasion of Europe, this battle became the turning point in the second World War. This one victory in France turned the tide of that war in Europe and provided the Allied forces with the opportunity to take the fight directly to the source of evil aggression and emerge, victorious. Yet the victory at Normandy came at an enormous cost paid for by the thousands of Americans who forfeited their lives and futures on those beaches that day.
It's been well documented through interviews with the families, fellow soldiers, and loved ones of those who died on the beaches of France on June 6, 1944, that they too labored to understand whether the loss was worth it. Would the sacrifice of thousands of brave men in that one battle truly serve to advance the greater and uniquely American ideals that they held sacred and swore to protect and defend?
Perhaps the more than seven decades removed from the D-Day battle in Normandy is why we do not hesitate to answer that our lives are indeed better having won that battle that led to the Allied victory against the Nazis in WWII. Our freedom, today, right here right, now is the undeniable testimony that those who died at Normandy and in WWII have not died in vain.
It’s been almost 18 years since the beginning of the historic War on Terror. A war that took the lives of thousands, including Sgt. Hines, Staff Sgt. Slutman, and Cpl. Hendriks. A war that countless others, including my son, Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Davies, have fought in and will likely continue to fight in. A war that will undoubtedly take the lives of others before the final victory is achieved.
Therefore, it is for us, the beneficiaries and consumers of the freedom that has been, and continues to be, paid for by the sacrifice of fallen warriors on foreign soil, to stay the course and never forget that freedom is not free.
We, here today and across this country, must resolve that those who have given everything to defend this nation and the noble ideals it represents throughout the world - whether on the beaches of Normandy, East Afghanistan or wherever the mission required - did not die in vain. And that the liberty and life we all enjoy is due in the largest part to the heroes - past, present, and future - that have and will continue to pay its high price.
And while this day is for the fallen, please remember to thank those who are currently serving or who have served in our armed forces. Thank them for their service, and for their willingness to defend the freedom we enjoy.