Yesterday I had the honor of participating in Bluffton’s Memorial Day activities hosted by the American Legion Post 382. It was a privilege to be afforded the opportunity to speak at the ceremony. For anyone who may not have been able to make it, my comments are below.
Memorial Day Speech – May 29, 2017
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of my fellow Service Members, I want to thank you for taking the time to gather here to honor and remember those who have given their lives in service to this great nation. Before I begin, I would like to introduce myself. I am Captain Timothy Wilmetti, Chaplain of the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion in Knoxville, TN. I have been serving in the Army Reserve for almost 5 years and was formerly a Chaplain Candidate with the 15th Psychological Operations Battalion in Cincinnati, OH. My wife, Ashlie, and I have been married for over 5 years and we have two beautiful daughters, Emma and Kayla. The three of them are the pride of my life. As a civilian, I have the pleasure serving as the pastor of First United Methodist Church here in Bluffton and have been doing so for the last two years. As a pastor, I can be long-winded, so I’ll try to keep my remarks brief.
Friends, take a moment to reflect on the state of the world today – terrorist attacks plague a number of Western nations; civil war rages on in Syria and Iraq; North Korea continues to advance their nuclear missile programs; and the list of conflicts and threats could go on. Little has changed, of course. Throughout history, God’s good creation has been polluted by human aggression, violence, and war. As a Christian, I understand this brokenness to be the result of original sin, of mankind’s propensity for evil. Everywhere you look, you’ll find villains who are willing to sacrifice the lives of others for their own selfish pursuits. This is why the world is corrupted by war – because there will always be vicious men and women whose appetites for power and supremacy are never satisfied.
If conflicts and wars are unfortunate symptoms of a broken world, our only hope for maintaining some semblance of peace is if good stands in opposition to evil. One of my favorite quotes, credited to Edmund Burke, says “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We cannot allow evil to reign uncontested. When people are intent on causing violence and destruction, the only way to stop them is by force. So, when the innocent are powerless to defend themselves from unjust aggressors, who will rise up to protect them? When genocidal leaders seek to wipe out an entire race, who will come to their aid? When dictators threaten the values and ideals for which America stands, who will come to their defense? The men and women of the United States military. By land, air, or sea, American Soldiers have courageously charged into battle to face the most brutal of enemies. They have endured the harshest circumstances, overcome the smallest of odds, and valiantly fought to protect all that they hold dear: their God, their family, and their country.
Everyone who has served in the military entered knowing what would be expected of them. They would have to make sacrifices – time away from family for training or deployments, certain freedoms, like what they will wear or when they will work, and so much more. Sadly, for some, service in the United States military has even required their lives. Today we gather to honor and remember the more than 1.1 million Americans who have fallen in battle since the Revolutionary War. We come to celebrate their bravery and their selflessness, but we also come to mourn their loss. We come to carry on a tradition that ensures that those who have given everything will never be forgotten.
We come to give thanks – to those who have died and to the families they have left behind. Military families face a number of challenges even without losing the ones they love. When a Soldier with a family goes off to war, they leave behind their roles of parent and spouse. Their families are not only left to struggle with their absence, but they must learn to cope with the uncertainty of their Soldier’s well-being and the fear of them never making it home alive. For those whose fears have been realized, let me express my deepest sympathies and utmost respect.
We also offer our sincerest gratitude to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Volunteers willing to give their lives for a cause they believed in. Men and women of valor who fought tooth and nail to protect their fellow Soldiers, to defend the innocent, and to complete the mission. They are heroes who should never be forgotten. Their stories must be told, they must be recorded in history, so we might humbly remember them with the respect and admiration they deserve. I pray their spirits will live on in the lives they touched.
There are a number ways that we can show our appreciation for those who have given all for their country. We can decorate their graves with flowers and flags. We can fly Old Glory and wear red, white, and blue. We can even sit down to watch Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers. These are great, but if we truly want to honor those who have given their lives, then we need to make sure the United States of America continues to be a nation worth dying for. A land of freedom and opportunity; a country where all men are created equal; a nation led by the people and for the people; a nation founded on Christian principles. A place where hatred is overcome by love and neighbor looks out for neighbor. If you want to honor those who have fallen, then find ways to support their grieving families, to take care of Veterans who return home with permanent physical and emotional scars. Friends, if we want to make sure that their sacrifices were not in vain, we need to make the United State of America a nation worthy of their death.