Memorial Day Speaker

Memorial Day - James Loutzenhiser Jr was the keynote speaker at the 2021 program held this past Monday.

The annual O'Neill Memorial Day Program was held on Monday, May 31 at 11 a.m. at the O'Neill Cemetery.

The O'Neill Legion and VFW Posts were present for the ceremony.

Legion Post Commander George Mumm welcomed the crowd and started the program.

James Loutzenhiser Jr was the speaker for the program. Loutzenhiser was a veteran of the Vietnam War and his service was with the U.S. Navy.

"Most everyone probably knows why Memorial Day is celebrated but it is good to remember again its purpose and facts about why we celebrate this holiday. Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for honoring and mourning the military personnel who have died in the performance of their military duties while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It was originally known as Decoration Day and it originated in the years of the Civil War which ended in the spring of 1865.

During World War II the U.S. found itself in another major conflict and the holiday evolved to commemorate military personal who died in all wars. The death totals for each war were: Revolutionary War- 25,000, Civil War- 620,000, World War I- 116,516, World War II- 405,399, Korean War- 33,686, Vietnam War- 58,209, Gulf War- 1565, Global War on Terror- 6852. Total that were killed in all wars was 1.1 million.

There have been four major wars in my lifetime of 72 years. Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and Afghanistan. I was born 3 ½ years after World War II ended. My early childhood was full of memories of that war. There were news articles, radio and tv broadcasts, movies and films that were played for many years after the war ended. My father would occasionally share some memories but it was quite a few years after the war that he would open up about his experience. I was always looking for books or magazines with articles about the battles he was part of in the Philippine Islands. Dad was 17 when he joined the army. He said he had to lie about his age so he could join and wanted to be with his cousins and other family members that were going off to war in Europe and the Philippines. It was amazing to hear the stories about the battles and about the grief over the death of his friends who fought alongside him.

Dad was a soldier motivated by love for his country and for the love of freedom around the world and was willing to put his life on the line and to fight and die if necessary. Like so many others throughout history-not only in America but nations around the world, patriotism-to hear the call to serve and protect no matter the cost. Men and women proud to serve and America has been the greatest nation guarding freedom never equaled by any other country. That’s why my dad was willing to go and serve, that’s why so many left their families, their homes, jobs and went into battle of which hundreds of thousands never returned. The price for freedom.

Memorial Day is about honoring those who died, who paid the ultimate price-their lives-which is beyond our power to repay. What can we do to honor them? By stopping one day a year as a nation and remembering them, placing flowers or a wreath on the grave sites or memorials. We can share memories of them and visit the memorials and the markers, pausing for a moment or two to say a prayer of gratitude for their lives thanking God for their gift to us. A Memorial Day.

I get very emotional and stirred in my mind and heart as I watch the documentaries and view the grave markers. The purpose and value is renewed and the vision they had becomes fresh again in my heart. “Why would someone lay down his life for another or for his country? Why would a young soldier rush into the battle knowing he may die; when the tailgate of a personnel barge drops and the men let out a battle cry and plunge into the water and on to the beach knowing the machine gun fire is hitting those around him. There has to be a reason, a cause for a man or woman to do that. And that is exactly what has made America who we are today and what has made other nations survive the evil and cruel powers that come against them. Stopping aggression that strips people of freedom and equality. Stopping corrupt governments that suppress the rights of individual freedom of speech, worship and the pursuit of personal justice for everyone. I would give my life for that, preserving America’s freedom for my children and my grandchildren and for others also.

Willing to die for a just cause- that is why I joined the Navy in 1969-74 during the bloody years of the Vietnam War. Standing up for freedom for those whom I did not know personally, those outside of America who deserved freedom, not a communist or a tyrant government. Some say that we didn’t win that war, but we did. The power and might of our military became a deterrent to the aggressive power of communist governments like China and Russia and we stood firm and pushed back the aggressive grasp of power. We set boundaries and drew lines in the sand with the full force and power to back it if needed. And the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we removed the violent, murdering and vicious leaders and groups that kill and destroy innocent lives of men and women and children.

We must never forget the truth, the motive and the sacrifice. We need memorials, not just one day a year but every day. Our nation needs to stop tearing down the memorials and what they truly represent. We need to teach the facts and the truth to our children and to our grandchildren. There must be memorials for every generation or we will fall to the enemy of whom so many have given their lives to defeat. We live in a nation under God and he has blessed and kept us for a standard of freedom around the world.

May God continue to bless America and may we honor those who gave their lives so that we will remain strong and blessed.

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