Lanesboro principal speaks for veterans on Memorial Day
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 4:39 AM
Memorial Day programs are a little like the U.S. Postal Service: weather does not deter them. While the traditional march of the Color Guard, American Legion Post #40, its Auxiliary, the Girl Scouts and the Cub Scouts was rained out, the Memorial Day program went on as scheduled at the Lanesboro Veterans Memorial Community Center.
Members of the Lanesboro American Legion and its Auxiliary lined up in front the Veterans Memorial Community Center on Monday and presented the colors during the Memorial Day service. PHOTO BY DR. JAN MEYER/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
Post Commander Dean Benson, as master of ceremonies, introduced Post Chaplain Carolyn Storlie who opened the service with an invocation. Marge Fuller honored Gold Star Mothers, those who have lost sons in combat.
The Lanesboro High School Band, under the direction of Katrina Schuneman, played the National Anthem, and also performed a second number.
High school seniors Michael Holst, Megan Kiehne and Kirsten Ruen described some of their impressions during their spring senior trip to Washington, D.C. In particular, they noted the war memorials that they had visited and how impressed they had been, with Holst adding that it made him "feel very patriotic."
Speaker Brett Clarke, principal of Lanesboro High School, talked about his own impressions of veterans and Memorial Day, both growing up and as an adult and a history teacher. He also talked about how Americans can all honor veterans, and not just on Memorial Day or Veterans' Day. His speech follows in its entirety.
Glen Jenssen led the audience in singing "God Bless America," and Harriet Lawston, Auxiliary Chaplain, closed the indoor service.
In spite of the weather, the groups reassembled outdoors where the Honor Guard fired a salute with rifles and then the mournful sound of "Taps" was heard, played by Beth Vitse. The Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts placed flowers on the white crosses, as the rain persisted and the crowd headed for cover.
" . . . Some gave their future so that you and I could have one."
~ Brett Clark
The following is a reprint of Lanesboro Secondary Principal Brett Clark's speech given at the Lanesboro Memorial Day Service on Monday morning.
When I was asked to speak to you all today, I immediately felt two emotions; first was humility: I was humbled to be asked. Second, I was surprised. In fact, I guess I don't know that I have ever felt important enough to be asked to speak, and certainly not to a group as prestigious as a room full of veterans.
Then I quickly thought of my father, who I really had never thought of as a soldier. As a young child I had never really asked him about his time in the military. In my teens, my curiosity overcame me. I started asking questions: Where did you go? What did you do? Why did you do it? Did you like it? You see, my father was fortunate to not be sent into combat as the Vietnam War ended shortly before he would have been sent over.
I never did ask, should I sign up? It just never came up. You see, my dad in one explanation just said when he grew up that it was just part of growing up. In his case it was "part of becoming a man."
As I look at the group around me, I would believe that many of you share similar experiences. If it weren't for events like this or the American Legion and Auxiliary, we may never know you even served. Credit was not the objective even though it is much deserved. You see, in my experience, it seems it was never about the individual but something MUCH larger. Our country asked them to go, and they went.
As a history teacher it was often my job to share some of the heroic stories of people that I believe defined our country's greatness. Each school was sent a video series called "Medal of Honor." It highlighted a few Medal of Honor recipients. For those of you that are not familiar, the Medal of Honor has only been given to about 3,500 people out of the millions that have gone into battle for the United States. (General George Patton was quoted as saying "I would give my immortal soul for that medal.") You see, Medal of Honor recipients are the people that took bullets and laid over bombs to protect others. Many never lived to get the award.
One of the stories was about Bill Crawford. He was a janitor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. In this seemingly routine job, he went about his business in his later years of his life. One sharp cadet recognized Bill as a Medal of Honor recipient after looking through a book at the Academy. At first, disbelief: could this janitor really hold the Medal of Honor? He did indeed, and was more than content to keep it to himself. Greatness is all around us. It is up to us to recognize it.
Veterans don't seek recognition, but on days like this, in places like these, we get to honor and remember those who gave everything they have to give. Music is a great way to inspire, celebrate, and honor those who gave their lives. Our high school students here are a great example. One of my favorite patriotic songs cites the phrase "All gave some, but some gave all." Some phrases need no explanation.
Legion Commander Benson asked me to include what Memorial Day means to me. I don't know if you have enough time for that. But I'll try. Please make yourself comfortable.
Even while in school, I was the person who played taps. I played taps in front of the student body at Veterans' Day. I played taps with the echo for Memorial Day with my band teacher. (He got the hard part!) I'm the one who didn't serve, but who will be forever grateful for those who did. I played taps at my grandfather's funeral. He was a Korean War Veteran.
When I was telling someone that I was going to be the speaker today, their response was, "I didn't know you served in the military." I realize that my being asked today breaks tradition. I was not a soldier. I'm just grateful. Isn't that just like a group of veterans to give you something that you may not even deserve. Grateful indeed.
Yet another song cites, "I don't want to die for you, but if dying is asked of me, I'll bear that cross with honor, cause freedom don't come free." If freedom is not free, how much does it cost? We know that the cost is high and we know that we live in such a great place that people today are still giving their lives for their country.
For a chunk of my childhood, Memorial Day was only about the past, those lost in Vietnam, Korea, World War II, World War I, and many beyond them. They were people my grandparents knew of. Today, the current conflicts and wars could not be closer to home. We pray for our young soldiers to return home safely; yet these parents of our soldiers know the price as well as the risk. And they do it anyway.
Our veterans of the past knew full well what perils they faced in accepting their country's challenge, and they did it anyway.
So what does that leave me on this Memorial Day? Grateful. Eternally grateful. Proud, to be among you in this place, on this day, honoring people who asked nothing of me yet made all that I have possible.
I think every speech should have some sense of purpose. First of all, I hope to leave you with an idea of how I feel about this country. Second, I'd like to challenge all of you here to do what the veterans here today have done and most certainly what our fallen soldiers have done, in that they stepped up to fill a need when our country needed them most. Third is to remember, and never forget.
This past summer, the Clarke side of our family had a reunion. It was the 100th anniversary party for missing the boat. You see, my great-grandfather was late to get on his boat when coming over from Europe. The boat just happened to be the Titanic. You see, if you ever see me late to something it is a bit of a family tradition, and if anyone asks, we are quite happy about it. As good as that family story might be, it wasn't the best one of the reunion.
There was a program. My family started to take turns speaking and we heard stories, stories about family, stories about experiences, and stories about America. Coming to America, and then tears. Now seeing 90-year-old men cry when speaking about this country...I will always remember that. I expected sappy stories about our family. I witnessed an entirely different message: My uncle broke down in tears: "I love this country so much."
One of the most enjoyable parts of this speech was calling to confirm some of the family stories, and I found that more people than I had even remembered had served. I wonder how many of you here have people in your family tree that you do not even know about. It is stories and feelings like these that I believed moved so many to defend our country to their very last breath.
I recently attended a graduation ceremony for my sister. She was getting her graduate degree. The speaker was ESPN journalist Buster Olney and he spoke about a concept emphasized by Coach Don Meyer (former basketball coach at Northern State University): "See a need, fill the need."
See a need...fill the need. As a general rule, we seem to complicate things unnecessarily. As someone who hasn't served in the military, I find myself looking to help in other ways. See a need...fill a need, just as our heroes here have done.
One challenging aspect of deciding what to include in this speech is that the people we are honoring are not here to tell their own stories. I do know the difference between Veterans' Day and Memorial Day. Both are important days for us. However, we rely on veterans and those closest to our fallen heroes to make sure their legacies live on. I think it is natural to use the story of veterans to honor those who did not come home. It is up to us, including and especially those who have not served, to keep these heroes in the present, the here and now.
What better way to honor those who gave everything than to live to the fullest the very futures that they fought to defend, the futures of our children, grandchildren, and many more. What better way to honor those who gave everything than to help whenever a need arises, military or otherwise. What better way to honor those who gave everything than to love this country in good times and in bad.
On this day, in this place, let us give thanks and spend time truly thinking about those who sacrificed their own future so that you and I could have one. Memorial Day is a conscious pause in our daily activities to remember all of those who gave all.
When a chance to remember throughout the year presents itself, take it. Whether it is a trip to a memorial, a patriotic song on the radio, or a patriotic photo on Facebook, take the moment to remember. Let us remember, and never forget. Let us remember on Memorial Day, and every day.