In May of 2006, Attorney Rutter had the
privilege of speaking at Derry's Memorial Day Ceremony in MacGregor Park. Below is a copy of her remarks from that day.
Good morning, members of the VFW and American Legion and Ladies Auxiliaries,
veterans, servicemen and women of the Armed Forces, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great privilege for me to
speak to you here on Memorial Day, the day when Americans pause from their work to remember those who made our freedom possible.
Ronald Reagan once said, "Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than
one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each
Many of you gathered here today, in one way or another,
know all too well the terrible cost of defending that fragile freedom. Many of you are veterans, and there may be others here
who continue to serve today in the uniform of our country. America owes you all an immeasurable debt. And no doubt some of
you are from the ranks of our military families. You know first hand the truth of those words of poet John Milton, "They
also serve who only stand wait…"…. waiting for a loved one – a brave young man or woman who perhaps
even now is answering the call halfway around the world, defending our country, while you keep the faith here on the home
I personally cannot speak to you from the experience of military
service, but I can speak to you from a heart full of gratitude for those who have made the sacrifices of serving our country.
And in expressing that gratitude, I know I speak for all of us here today, who treasure our freedom and are so thankful to
those veterans whose bravery and blood bought for us the rights and liberties that we are blessed to enjoy as Americans. I
know that all of us gathered here today are grateful indeed.
person who seeks a true hero to admire or a role model to emulate need look no further than America’s veterans, because
they embody the definition of courage and selfless devotion to a cause greater than themselves. Some years ago, when I was
a high school student myself, I had the opportunity to take part in a three-day seminar for young people from around the country,
which was designed to inspire and educate young students regarding leadership and the pursuit of excellence. It featured speakers
from all different walks of life, each of whom was very distinguished in his or her field, but in particular, I will never
forget the speech that was given by the author Tom Clancy. Rather than pointing to himself as a role model, he chose instead
to point to our veterans and our servicemen and women as the highest of heroes and role models. Out of all the eloquent addresses
that we heard throughout that seminar, it was ten simple words from Tom Clancy which made perhaps the most lasting impression
upon me as a young person – ten words which were the heartbeat of his entire speech and which still resonate in my mind
to this day.
He said, "Our military has given us more devotion
than we deserve." How true.
And it is with the devotion of the
American solider that our freedom has been purchased and secured. That devotion has been demonstrated on hundreds of fields
of conflict spread across the span of two hundred and thirty years. Some of these battlefields such as Bunker Hill and Yorktown,
Gettysburg and Antietam are close to home, on American soil. And then, there are others whose names are foreign, and speak
of places many of us will never see… names from our past like Argonne… Normandy…. Iwo Jima…. Chosin
….. Khe Sanh…. Kuwait…. Mogadishu…. and yes, names even from today …. like Mazar-e-Sharif…
Kandahar….. Fallujah. These names speak of places far from home. Yet they, and many others like them, should be indelibly
inscribed on the heart’s memory of every American, for these are the places where America’s sons and daughters
served and sacrificed; fought and fell, and gave testament, again and again and again to their dedication and their valor.
From the Revolution through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan,
over one million Americans have died in war, bartering their lives for the ageless desire and timeless cause of freedom, leaving
at their deaths a legacy of liberty to us and to the generations of Americans yet to be born. Yes, truly …. Our military
HAS given us more devotion than we deserved.
Fifteen years ago, when our troops were deployed to liberate Kuwait in Desert Storm and more recently,
with the advent of "shock and awe" in Iraq, much attention was focused on the sophisticated technology that was
used in battle. Although highly advanced weaponry and equipment have proven to be a tremendous boon to our soldiers in time
of war, it was not technology alone that won us the victory in the Persian Gulf, and it is not simply technology that advances
our cause as we fight a new foe in the middle-east today. It is something far greater
than that, something that has been America’s most precious asset in time of war ever since the colonists, in defiant
defense of liberty, first faced the Redcoats on Lexington Green.
the wooden decks of the Constitution to the flight decks of the USS Ronald Reagan….. from the horse drawn artillery
of the Civil War to the Abrams M1-A1 Tank…. From the open cockpit Jenny to the supersonic F-15 Eagle…. There
is one common thread that runs through the decades of our military history – the main reason why our forces have prevailed,
sometimes against seemingly insurmountable odds. It has something to do with technology, but it has everything
to do with courage. The devotion of the American soldier.
As we contemplate
today the cost of freedom, I am reminded of the words of John F. Kennedy, who said, "The
cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path
of surrender, or submission."
Yes, Americans have never failed
to answer the call and pay the cost of freedom.
And yet, every generation
has hoped that – by some twist of history – theirs might be the last generation to make such a sacrifice. I have at home a book which I like to read through from time to time, which
recounts the compelling stories of recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor – the highest award which can be bestowed
upon an American serviceman for valor in combat, ….. given in recognition of "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidness
above and beyond the call of duty." This book, which was published in 1990, ends with the story of Master Sergeant Roy
Benavidez, a Vietnam veteran and the man who was, at that time, the last American to receive the Medal of Honor. The author,
who was writing in a time of relative peace for our country, closed by declaring that it is possible that there may never
be another recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, because receiving one requires actual combat with an enemy. And,
he said, no one who wears the medal, nor any of the American people who have proudly honored them, wants that to happen again.
The author’s heart was in the right place and his sentiments were hopeful, but in the sixteen years since the publication
of that book, Americans have indeed been called into combat several times over, in defense of freedom…. and in fact,
in those sixteen short years, three more Americans earned the Medal of Honor as a result of their bravery in battle: Master
Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart, for actions in Mogadishu, Somalia…. And Sergeant First
Class Paul Smith for actions at Baghdad International Airport in the Iraqi conflict, in 2003. Some of the names of America's
heroes. All three men died in combat and were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.
I am sure that every soldier, even as he yearns for his loved ones back at home,
knows that his service is helping to protect them, and hopes that his sacrifice might indeed be the last. General Douglas
MacArthur, a man who finds few peers as he walks the corridors of history, once said, "The soldier, above all other people,
prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." General MacArthur went on to say,
"But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers, ‘Only the dead have seen
the end of war.’" General MacArthur’s words are just as profound and timely today as they were when he spoke
them to the cadets at West Point more than forty years ago.
glance at the daily headlines will attest, we are living today in a world where strife, not peace, pervades, a world whose
countries and continents swirl with discord and danger… a world where attacks can even reach American soil, as we know
all too well. Even now, we cannot safely predict what the volatile world situation will be like with the passing of a month’s
time, or even with the rising of tomorrow’s sun.
But as Americans,
we have, in these uncertain times, a sure defense, a watchman at the portals of our freedom. This morning, in Iraq and Afghanistan,
and at bases and on ships around the globe, men and women of the United States military are serving and training and defending.
They bear the awesome responsibility of standing between us and the perils that may threaten our nation. The devotion of the
The devotion of the American soldier deserves in
return the full devotion of every grateful American. It deserves our time and our energy and our heart.
Today, on Memorial Day, let us pledge anew to fulfill our obligation to our veterans and our servicemen
and women, to the ones who fought our wars, purchased our freedom, and even now are defending that freedom with their very
lives. Let us return devotion for devotion.
Above all, let us always
remember. Remember the men and women who dedicated years of their lives to serving America in the Armed Forces. Remember the
brave Americans who exchanged a pleasant home for a foreign battlefield, where the images of their dreams and future hopes
could be shattered like glass in an instant. Remember the soldiers who sacrificed their own claim to the American way of life,
so that we could enjoy it today in freedom.
Remember. Remember. Remember.
We must always remember, for we can never allow ourselves to forget.
God bless our troops, may God bless our veterans, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
-- Rebecca Rutter