From among the countless words spoken or written across the generations to capture the essence of Memorial Day, I always return to former President Ronald Reagan, on June 6, 1984, in remarks commemorating the 40th Anniversary of D-Day at the Omaha Beach Memorial Cemetery, “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”
Particularly striking are those repeated words, We will.
Indeed, so many of us will continue to remember on this Memorial Day.
We will meet at cemeteries, parades, and other ceremonies, large and small, and remember a soldier’s sacrifice. We will stand together in Corning and Hammondsport, Hornell and Penn Yan, Dundee and Elmira, Horseheads and Watkins Glen, and so many other places across this region.
We will be proud to recognize New York State as the “Birthplace of Memorial Day,” which our nation has observed since the time of the Civil War. It is a time to reflect on the greatness of a nation built on the sacrifices of the men and women who fought and died for the underlying dreams of their homeland.
In remembering, we will always reaffirm our pride in this nation’s military men and women. Of course, we will always turn enduring thoughts and prayers to the young soldiers, the heroes, who have been recently lost.
We will honor our wounded warriors. We will support the men and women serving in harm’s way at this very moment. They are shining examples of bravery, courage and eternal honor.
We will salute all New York State veterans and the millions more across the nation. Last week in Albany, I proudly paid tribute to the service of one of these outstanding local veterans, the late Paul C. “Digger” Vendetti, a World War II Navy veteran and longtime caretaker at Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira. We inducted Navy Seaman First Class Vendetti into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame, where he joins more than 400 veterans who have joined the Hall since 2005. This includes the following area veterans whom I have had the privilege to induct since 2011: Philip C. Smith of Schuyler County; J. Arthur “Archie” Kieffer, Chemung County; former Painted Post Mayor Roswell L. “Roz” Crozier, Jr.; Anthony J. “Tony” Specchio, Sr., Schuyler County; P. Earle Gleason, Yates County; and Warren A. Thompson, Steuben County [view the Senate’s online Veterans’ Hall of Fame on my Senate website, www.omara.nysenate.gov].
Because of our veterans, we can look into the eyes of young people this Memorial Day, the faces of the future, and have faith that they, too, will be instilled with the spirit to keep America strong, to keep believing that the American way is a good, decent, worthwhile way.
In the end, perhaps this is the greatest justice for all of the missions flown, the foxholes dug, the hills taken, and the battles fought. Our soldiers — American soldiers — have made and will continue to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep America free, so that she can lead the way to a more free world.
The sacrifices of our soldiers will keep alive America’s promise, so that people throughout the world will look to her for inspiration.
Our soldiers will keep America strong, so that other nations will draw courage from her strength.
For as long as we remember and keep our soldiers alive in our hearts, we will stand as we do — free in a land of opportunity and promise.