The following OpEd is provided by LTC Allen West (retired), Executive Director, American Constitutional Rights Union and the Committee to Support and Defend. AMAC Foundation is honored to have ACRU as an FVOP Collaborator.
“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
– President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
President Abraham Lincoln was not the featured speaker for the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, but his 263-word speech will never be forgotten. When I think about Memorial Day it is truly about those of us who still walk about taking increased devotion to those who have given the last full measure of devotion. Memorial Day is special to me because my Dad and Mom are buried together in Marietta National Cemetery in Georgia. My Dad, Herman West Sr., was a World War II US Army Corporal who answered the call of duty to serve his Nation, even when his Nation did not serve him. My Dad wanted to be a part of a new birth of freedom for people far and away from him in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). And having been born in 1920 in the South, Dad was yet to experience many of those freedoms, but that did not deter him.
My Dad was proud of his service in the US Army, and to America. He continued serving his fellow Veterans as a nursing assistant at the VA Hospital in Atlanta Georgia. Incredibly so, it was there that my Dad took his final breath, and rightfully so, in a place of honor, providing care to our Veterans. It was my Dad, CPL West, who had challenged me to take my place and give increased devotion to this Nation as the first commissioned officer in our family. My older brother, Herman West Jr., had also served this Nation as a US Marine Corps Lance Corporal and his combat duty was in a place called Vietnam.
On 31 July 1982 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I joined the ranks of those willing to make the last full measure of devotion to this Nation. Dad and Mom stood there at my respective sides and pinned on the gold bars of a freshly minted US Army Second Lieutenant. I served 22 years and ventured to several combat zones all as part of the generational devotion of my family to this Nation. And it was on 6 June 2002 that the Army reposed special trust and confidence in me to lead a combat artillery battalion in the Army’s 4th Infantry Division. In the stands that day were my older brother and his only Son, Herman West III…who is now a Lieutenant Colonel, Artillery, in the US Army. My nephew Bernie will take command of an artillery battalion this June at Ft. Lewis Washington, continuing the legacy of increased generational devotion of the West Family.
And not just my immediate family, but my Father-in-Law, US Army Master Sergeant (Retired) Ronald Keith Graham is laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, with his wife, my Mother-in-Law. He served 24 years active duty with two combat tours in Vietnam.
Both of my Son-in-Laws are Soldiers, my oldest served 12 years in the US Army Reserves, the youngest has already graduated Army Basic Combat training and is in Army ROTC working towards being a commissioned officer himself.
Memorial Day is a time to reflect upon Lincoln’s words, especially those of increased devotion. As we gaze out upon the “Gardens of Stone” or visit memorials listing the names of our honored fallen we must tell their story and advocate for increased generational devotion to sustain this great endeavor of individual liberty and freedom. Sadly, there are those in America who trample upon their sacrifices that have been made by these brave and honorable men and women over the 246 years of our Nation’s existence. We say to those we see, “thank you for your service” then we disregard them by the actions of having homeless Veterans whom we displace for those here illegally.
Increased devotion means that we honor our fallen, and those who once stood at their side. And for those of us who remain on this side of the grass, our increased devotion means that our oath never ends. It means that we must honor our fallen brothers and sisters by telling of how they lived…and why they died.
There would not be a Lieutenant Colonel Allen B. West if it were not for Corporal Herman West Sr. And on this coming Memorial Day, I pray that those who live near Marietta National Cemetery would go by and see the final duty station of a Man, a noble Man, who gave increased devotion to this Nation, and is laid to rest among those who gave the last full measure of devotion.
We should not say “Happy” Memorial Day. Rather we should say Honor Memorial Day.
Steadfast and Loyal!