May 25, 2009
Remarks for the Memorial Day vigil at the Crosses of Lafayette:
In 1976, fictitious newsman Howard Beal in the film “Network” told America, “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad.” Today, the same might be said. We are facing two difficult wars, global warming, an economy in turmoil, and we are of the first generation of Americans to earn less than our parents did.
And yet, despite this, we hold to a belief that things will get better, that our hard work can and will turn things around.
Memorial Day, begun in the wake of the horrors of America’s Civil War, is a time of remembrance and of a call to a common future. As we gather here reflecting on the sacrifice these soldiers have made for us, wondering how best to respect them, we should dig deep down into our common spirit – dream more, strive harder, reach higher, to build a stronger and more unified nation.
Inside each and every one of us burns the dream of liberty, freedom and opportunity that has brought us through Revolution and Civil War, through Great War and World War II, through Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War to where we stand today – to honor these 5,000 brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We are bearers of the vision that they fought for, an American Dream rooted in the belief of equality and opportunity. This dream is not founded upon consumerism or ease but in the desire to live in a society that places a higher reward on hard work and merit over privilege, connections or inheritance, a society founded on the belief that all are created equal and that all should be free.
We must honor these great men and women with a brighter future for our children, where we fight for victory in peace as hard as we do in war. We must invest ourselves in the development of new energy. Not only the energy that we possess in ourselves through our physical and mental strength, but also that which is provided to us through nature – that of the sun, the wind and the waves. We must invest ourselves in an America where hard work and merit still lead to prosperity, where the next generations are as lucky as we are, in an America where anything is possible.
As James Truslow Adams wrote in “Epic of America,” ours is “a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are inwardly capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
It is for this dream that the men and women we honor this day and every day gave their lives. It is for continuity of this hope, this American Dream, that we honor those remembered here.
And let us thank those who serve and have served – including two of my brothers and Senator Mark DeSaulnier’s father; and, most of all, our fallen neighbors: these are Sgt. Shawn Adams of Dixon; Sgt. John Aragon and Staff Sgt. Daniel Scheile of Antioch; Cpl. Mick Bekowsky, PFCs Benjamin Zieske and Benjamin Tollefson of Concord, Staff Sgt. Sean Diamond of Dublin, Spec. Joseph Graves of Discovery Bay, Lance Cpl. Kyle Crowley of San Ramon; Specialists James Coon and Sean Langevin of Walnut Creek; Nadia’s son, Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey, whose birthday would be celebrated tomorrow, and so many more.
Finally, I’ve been asked by our neighbor, World War II veteran Dr. Sam Etheredge, to read an excerpt from a poem he wrote about these crosses. It’s a poem that reaches from the beginnings of our American Dream to where we stand today.
Lafayette Comes Through Again
Down at Lafayette Hill, those tell-tale markers flow
to the busy traffic’s edge, we’ve watched them grow
row after row of shining white crosses
intermingled with white stars are sons of David’s losses
It is quite fitting and proper that this memorial be placed here
in this beautiful quiet town named for a man we all hold dear
A patriot whose name we will never forget
from far away France, the Marquis de Lafayette
So shine on you crosses, and shine on you stars
Thank you. May God bless the courageous men and women who have sacrificed their lives, bless their dear families, protect those who remain in harm’s way, and God bless America.
Adriel Hampton is a journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. He is running for U.S. Congress in the 2009 special election for California’s 10th District. He has pledged to vote against funding for expansion of the Iraq and Afghan wars.