After getting up this morning, with Memorial Day stretched out before me, my first inclination was to head for the golf course.
Pretty soon, though, feelings of pride (at being an American) and gratitude (for the millions of U.S. armed forces members who have died and been wounded for the sake of freedom) prompted me to put golf aside and head to the Liberty Memorial for Kansas City’s annual Memorial Day Ceremony.
I’m so glad I went. It was solemn, moving and gratifying.
Retired Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, summed it up best when he opened his keynote address by saying:
“Isn’t it great to be an American?”
It’s a cliche, but on this day, it is particularly meaningful, and the several hundred of us in attendance nodded and affirmed.
Another speaker, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, talked about how “messy” the nation is now, with the tremendous political strife and divisions we are experiencing. But as he spoke under a hot sun, he said that on this day said those fractures and fissures didn’t matter.
“On this day,” he said, “we come together as Americans and say ‘thank you’ to the men and women who served us well.”
Kansas City Mayor Sly James rightly called the ceremony “a reconnection with our values as a country.” Sometimes we take those values for granted, but James was reminding us that is a big mistake.
Alluding to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” theme, James, who served in the Marines, said: “I never realized it wasn’t great. To me it’s great every day.”
Myers, an area resident who lives on the Kansas side, spoke about the qualities he believes have made America great: courage, sacrifice and optimism.
A prime example of our nation’s optimism, he said, came during a period when Americans were losing several battles in the Revolutionary War and the founding fathers gathered in Philadelphia to compose the Declaration of Independence.
“We were losing the war but declaring independence!” Myers said.
As an example of courage and sacrifice, he cited a visit he and his wife had years ago with a 20-year-old soldier at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The young man was going into surgery the next day to have a leg amputated. Myers said he and his wife teared up as they talked to the troop about his plight. But the young man put an end to the commiserating, saying, “Oh, no. I was prepared to give my life for my nation; I only have to give my leg.”
In closing, Myers followed up his opening question (“Isn’t it great to be an American?”) with another rhetorical question:
“Aren’t we lucky to live in this country?”
Amen, General Myers, amen…
Now, here are some photos…