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Catlin Lions Veterans Memorial

Address by Judge Craig DeArmond

I would like to thank the Catlin War Memorial Committee for allowing me the honor and privilege to speak at this historic occasion.

Thank all of you for coming out today to witness this dedication and to honor these men and women who gave their lives and time in service.

This memorial, honors not only the approximately 530 veterans named, but honors all those who have served our country in times of war and peace, in order to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today.

In this post 9-11 world, we have seen a resurgence of patriotism unlike anything seen since WWII. There is nothing wrong with that; however, what makes this particular memorial so special, and so important is that it did not come about in reaction to 9-11.

The work on this memorial has been over 3 years in the making. This memorial has come about because of people like each of you. People who wanted to do something to memorialize the many local men and women who served and died in the service of their country.

Middle America, small town America has always been the source of patriotism, loyalty, a sense of duty, and a willingness to sacrifice, if need be, to protect the ideals we were taught as children.

When there were wars to be fought, men and women from small towns all over the Midwest flocked to serve. They came from homes where they were taught right from wrong; where they learned that their word was their bond, and that a real man stood up for his friends.

Towns where every time the flag was raised and the National Anthem played, grown men had tears in their eyes. Towns where no one would dream of desecrating the flag and where the motto "America, love it or leave it", meant just that.

These men and women, and many more like them, gave everything to and for their country. Their families grieved their loss, but were able to hold their heads high, knowing that their loved ones fought for freedom.

On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus sought to comfort his disciples. He spoke of man's love for each other and in John 15:13, he said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

The men and women honored here are representative of that 'greater love'. They not only gave their lives and time for their friends, they did so for many others they did not even know. They sacrificed for a nation, for an ideal, for a principal by which we can all live in a free country. The patriotism reflected here, is not an afterthought. It did not come about in reaction to an act of terrorism, but is instead indicative of a spirit, the strength of which the terrorists have only now begun to realize.

For, as a result of September 11, the terrorists of the world have seen that you can destroy our buildings, you can destroy innocent lives, but you will never destroy the willingness of Americans to join together, across all racial, ethnic, religious or social lines to fight for our freedom; to fight for our country, to fight for our way of life.

You can attack us, but by doing so, you strengthen our resolve, you solidify our unity and you awaken 'the sleeping tiger'.

As Abraham Lincoln said at the Gettysburg Address, 'it is only fitting that we should do this'. For these men and women who gave so much, it is not too much to ask that we do something to provide a permanent remembrance of the price they paid for freedom.

This nation was built by veterans. The services performed by these we honor here, were vital to the continued strength of our nation. They gave their lives, or their time, but they gave much more. They gave us a sense of honor. They gave us the opportunity to realize the price of freedom. They gave us a community of spirit in which we realize the importance of service to our country.

In times of peace, it is easy to become complacent; it is easy to forget what others have done to make our country one where freedoms abound. We begin to take these things for granted, and soon, we find them being abused. We find people free to deface our flag; free to take God out of our Pledge; free to embrace any immoral, destructive life-style they choose. We find people ready to do and approve of anything.

In times of peace we forget what 'heroes' are. Heroes are ordinary people, who find themselves in extraordinary situations, and manage to perform extraordinary acts of bravery, not necessarily because they want to, but because they know they have to.

We can build monuments to the men and women who served and died, but if they could speak to us now, I think they would tell us, "remember me if you must, but remember more what I died or served for."