"We stand here today to honor and pay tribute to heroes, those service members who gave their lives in defense of our freedom," remarked Retired Colonel Rex Duncan, U.S. Army, as he addressed guests at Monday’s local Memorial Day Services. "By simply showing up today, each of you honored their service and sacrifices. You have also honored the sacrifices of their families."
The crowd was reminded that over time, the meaning of Memorial Day has become lost among a flurry of luxuries and opportunities purchased by the heroes being remembered and honored.
"We will truly honor our heroes by teaching our young people the true meaning of Memorial Day," said Duncan. "It isn’t about the unofficial start of summer or the half-off sale at a business. We will honor our heroes by paying respect to our flag, by supporting and visiting a Veteran’s Center, by flying an American flag in their memory and remembering the true meaning of their sacrifices. We will remember our heroes in as many ways as we can, for freedom is not free."
Duncan quoted words penned over a hundred years ago by John Stuart Miller, "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded feeling which thinks nothing is worth war is much worse. The man, who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, and nothing he cares more about than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
"These words are as relevant today as when they were written," said Duncan.
He compared the vast numbers of countries that have borders to keep their people in, who deny basic freedom of speech, assembly, and religion.
"America’s freedoms are nearly unlimited and beyond the imagination of millions of people around the world. America’s economy and our luxuries are part of what makes this country so great. We are not simply more deserving than other people around the world. These freedoms were given to us by God and by every one of those heroes buried beneath a white cross in Normandy, Korea, Arlington, little-known islands in the Pacific and other battlefields known only to those who fought and died there."
Duncan reminded the crowd that being born an American is a blessing from God. "It is a gift we cannot repay. But, who do we thank for making American what it is today? More than anybody else, we thank the heroes who paid everything they had. The world desperately needs America and its inherent goodness. I believe God has a purpose for America, just as He has a purpose for each of us."
In concluding, Duncan said, "The heroes we honor today, including 14 Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen from our recent deployment, gave all they had for the next generation. For the rest of us, it is our job today to remember and to say ‘Thank You.’ May God bless those our heroes left behind and those who will someday be called upon to do as they have already done. May God bless our troops in harm’s way around the world and may He continue to bless America."
Col. Duncan and American Legion Post 198 Commander Terry Perrigo ceremonially placed a poppy wreath on the steps of the Pawhuska Mausoleum. The poppies symbolize the sacrifice of lives in war and represent the hope that none have died in vain.
Following a 21-gun salute by Post 198 Honor Guard and taps by Bugler Paul Allen, a similar ceremony was conducted at St. John’s cemetery.
Afterwards, attendees were invited to a lunch hosted by American Legion Post 198 and its Ladies Auxiliary.