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It is with great respect that I joined Memorial Day ceremonies in Needham and Medfield and will attend Dover this evening. Following are my remarks on Memorial Day in Needham.

Greetings to all the Gold Star families and loved ones and friends of service men and women who have died in service to our country. To the veterans who are present, with good thoughts for our former ceremony leader, Master Sargent Bill Topham and all the members Needham’s Post 2498, our Public Safety personnel including our Police Officers and Firefighters, Senator Rausch, our Community Leaders, both elected and staff, friends, and neighbors, and most especially the children who are here today.

 

It is a privilege of my office, as your State Representative, that I am invited to speak at this ceremony. I feel deeply the responsibility to represent our community and our Commonwealth. It is humbling for me as an elected leader, a former VA nurse and as a mother, for me to search for the words that add meaning as we gather in our hometown.

 

Memorial Day is a somber commemoration of US military personnel who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

 

However, let us take a moment and first speak of the American service men and women who are stationed all over the world. In fact, the United States has over 750 military bases in more than 80 countries. According to the Department of Defense, 1.3 million Americans serve in active duty and nearly 800 thousand more serve in the Reserves today. Approximately eight thousand five hundred serve in the Massachusetts National Guard.

 

Make no mistake…they are in harm’s way. Dying in training and dying in the field. We pray for their safety, and we honor their service. Some have returned and are wounded in ways that are devastating, debilitating and lifelong. Some have injuries that are deep, grave, and invisible; and die by suicide. In 2021, the most recent statistics, thirty thousand one hundred and seventy-seven active-duty personnel and veterans who served in the military since 9/11 have died by suicide. (USO)

 

Some are lost to us and just never return.

 

Today, on Memorial Day we recognize and reflect on the Americans who have died in service to our country since the Revolutionary War.

 

Thirty-seven thousand flags fly today on Boston Common to commemorate the Massachusetts active-duty service men and women who have died.

 

Close your eyes and picture this- feel this number – it is more than every woman, man, and child in Needham today- more than.  Lives never fully realized, loves lost, children never born, parents alone in their last years, books never written, cures for diseases never discovered, businesses never launched, inventions never built.

 

Beyond our commonwealth- More than 1.1 million Americans have died in all U.S. Wars.

 

In the flag ceremony today, the flag will fly at half-staff. It is a gesture of honor and an acknowledgment of grief.

 

The flag will then be returned to full staff- its return is a symbol of our nation’s strength and resilience.

 

It is in our bearing witness today that we are compelled to accept our own personal responsibility- and strive for our own resilience.

 

Wars or the euphemism ‘conflict’, rage across our world today.

 

The United States military has fought and fights in our name.

We elect the leaders who decide to go to war, who engage in conflicts, who fail to stop war. We pay for the weapons or withhold them.  We send the sons and daughters of our country to United States military outposts across the globe. We, you, and I, must bear our responsibility.

 

And we can be resilient too.

John Adams said. and I paraphrase.

“…We must study politics and war, so that our children may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy so that their children may study painting, poetry and music…”

 

In speeches across our Commonwealth and country today the words “duty, honor, patriotism, service” will echo.

 

Let us be responsible that these are not words paid for by a life, -and then forgotten until next May. With our presence today we know that each and every death was a loss we cannot fathom in a family, a community, our country. Let our hearts, indeed, be at half-staff.

 

Then…Let us be resilient.  We must be strong.  live our values of duty, honor, patriotism, and service. It is our duty to know these facts; how many individuals are serving – how many have died, to be aware of the history and locations and actions of our military.  We must demand that the military actions are centered on the true tenets of our country and that our nation’s honor is preserved. We must demonstrate our patriotism not through holiday parades and Barbeques but in paying attention and acting to elect leaders wisely and then holding them accountable to us, we must serve in the ways we can, a kindness to a neighbor, volunteering, treating people in public service with dignity, spending our resources appropriately. We must accept our responsibility for those who serve in our name, and we must ensure care for the wounded in body and those dealing with trauma through our words and through tangible and sufficient benefits to the service person or survivors.

 

Finally…We must build a better world for our children, for all children and for their children’s children. This tremendous sacrifice of individuals in military service, the suffering of their families, the incomprehensible loss to communities, the country and the future can only be redeemed if there is a purpose- the worthy purposes are for us to honor the past, live our lives with our values in the present and work for a better tomorrow.

 

We must be strong and resolved. We must act and we must keep our hearts and souls at full staff.

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