On Monday, May 30, 2022, I joined Gold Star Families, veterans, Town leaders (elected and staff), public safety personnel, friends, neighbors and children in Needham, Dover and Medfield to commemorate Memorial Day. Below is a video clip and text of the remarks I presented at the Town of Needham’s Memorial Day Ceremonies:
REMARKS OF STATE REPRESENTATIVE DENISE GARLICK
NEEDHAM MEMORIAL DAY 2022
Good morning Senators Rausch and Rush. Senator Rush, because of redistricting, this will be your last time joining us a Memorial Day ceremony. It has been an honor. Needham has benefitted from your leadership in the Senate, and I have welcomed your collegiality and true friendship.
Greetings to all the Gold Star Families, veterans who are present, our public safety personnel including our police officers and firefighters, 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 that it is a great responsibility to represent our community and our Commonwealth. It is deeply humbling for me as an elected leader, a former VA nurse and a mother to search for the words that add meaning as we gather in our hometown.
Let us first speak of the American service men and women who are stationed all over the world. In fact, the United States has over 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. According to the Department of Defense, 1.4 million Americans serve in active duty and one million more serve in the Reserves. Approximately 8,500 serve today 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. The suicide rate in the military is 28.7 per 100,00 troops. Some are lost to us and just never return. We owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to all for all of them and their loved ones.
Today, I will speak briefly. I am too heart sick by the violence and carnage here in our country and in the wars, more violence, raging in our world. The war in Ukraine is present daily with us but many wars are being waged across our Earth which we barely acknowledge.
At the end of the fictional movie “Saving Private Ryan,” Captain Miller says to the young private, for whom six men died trying to find and save, “Earn this… earn it.”
While today should be a day of somber reflection of those service men and women who died serving our country it is actually a day given to celebration and the launch of summer.
It is a day when some pause at ceremonies in hometowns and we acknowledge that others have died…and we assign terrible suffering and death a noble cause…and so we absolve ourselves from the burden of working to preserve all that lived and died for.
- We grieve soldiers whose deaths orphaned their children in the past while we fail to protect the children of today.
- We were told that wars- the unspeakable misery of warriors, in Jan Drakes book Civil War, where the Civil war veteran says “we were treated more like mules than men” is all worth it because it protects “our freedom”.
- Franklin Roosevelt, preparing our country for World War II spoke of freedoms that symbolized Americas war aims and instilled a sense of purpose.
- We tell ourselves that the service man or woman fought and died to protect our freedom of speech. Yet, today we are subject to massive campaigns of misinformation- that wear us down and wear us out. Speech that is weaponized to instill divisions, hate and fear.
- We tell ourselves that service men and women died to protect our freedom of religion but in America today – as less and less individuals identify with a religion – we also see a society not willing to protect all religions – but instead the rise of a theocracy. A political movement posing as religion – intolerant of others and anyone who looks, loves or believes differently.
- We tell ourselves that military personnel died to guarantee the freedom from want but the COVID pandemic revealed food insecurity, elders rationing food against their need for medicine and children in the United States dependent on the local public school as a distribution center for their only food that day. Veterans in Massachusetts themselves lined up by the thousands, week in and week out, in 2020 and 2021 at Gillette Stadium to receive a box of food.
- We tell ourselves that service men and women died so that we would have freedom from fear. But our children are afraid, older Asian Americans are intimidated, antisemitism is on the rise, women of all ages are at risk and people of color are terrified.
We owe more to those who lived and fought and died. We owe their families and loved ones. Every day we must earn what they paid for. We must preserve and protect and promote what was the best in them and us- they died in our name and we must live in theirs. We must strive to earn their sacrifice. Not just on Memorial Day but every day we must work to protect freedom of speech, including freedom of the press. Freedom of religion which at its core, regardless of denomination, calls for love. Freedom from want, in a land of plenty, we must strive to meet the needs of our most vulnerable and finally freedom from fear- and its flip side anger we must consciously work to the side of hope.
Hundreds of thousands service men and women have died in service to our country. Today, let us not just remember them but resolve to think better, work harder, try more and earn their sacrifice. “Earn this… earn it.”
Thank you for this opportunity to speak