Since the beginning of this great country, countless men and women have fought and died for the freedoms that we enjoy every day. And while many of us may be spending this Memorial Day with our friends and neighbors, some families will be spending this holiday with someone missing. A son or daughter still serving overseas, a brother who will never walk again recovering in a hospital, a father who gave his life defending his country in a foreign land. Today we salute our brothers and sisters who have fought in the military. Not only remembering their sacrifice, but honoring their service by following their example. Their incomparable service doesn’t just happen. It comes from principles and values instilled over time. If we mirror their values even just a little bit, the world would change overnight.
Sounds easy enough, but with so many of our freedoms under assault we are being put to the test. Are we up to the challenge? America’s men and women in uniform have never backed down even with the possibility of paying the ultimate price for the cause of freedom. What are we willing to give to a country that has provided us with the historic opportunity to live in the freest nation in world history? Will you give your time? Money? Talent? Amidst your busy life, will you stand? Or will you take the easy path?
This one is about perspective. Soldiers understand their duty to country – it’s their job. Something we often forget, thanks to the extreme comforts provided by this grand experiment called America, is that defending liberty here at home is our job. We have an obligation to do more today than sit on the couch watching Netflix. We have an obligation to hold government accountable and never allow it to become the oppressive institution which has been the norm throughout most of history. Get active, serve others, teach, create, help. Don’t waste the gifts you have been given and the freedoms you’ve been given that others have died preserving.
Soldiers are amazing at showing respect, even when they are demeaned or otherwise mistreated. It’s pretty easy when you’re having a bad day to take it out on someone else.
But next time you feel yourself ready to snap at someone over nothing, take a few seconds to remember that they deserve to be treated with the same dignity and kindness that you would expect others to give you. We cannot restore this country without treating one another with the respect every individual deserves – and even when they don’t deserve it, the simple act of showing respect will stop many disagreements dead in their tracks.
This audience has really demonstrated the value of selfless service over the past year, but it’s always important to remember just how necessary it is to serve your country and to serve others. Selfless service means putting others before yourself, and it means going above and beyond the call of duty without the hope for special recognition or personal gain. There are opportunities for us to engage in selfless service each and every day, and I encourage you to seek out places where you can serve in your local community and to bring your kids with you as well. There is no greater love than to give one’s life for another – do not waste the freedom you have been given with self-indulgence, instead repay the kindness you have been shown by helping others as well.
When we gathered in Washington D.C. three years ago, we did it because we wanted to restore honor to a country that had forgotten the values and principles that make it great.
We called for America to turn back to God, for only through a faith and commitment to something greater than ourselves does man find the humility and strength to rule himself. Today, make sure you are living up to and honoring the values and principles we talked about at that time – honesty, reverence, hope, thrift, humility, charity, sincerity, moderation, diligence, courage, personal responsibility, and gratitude.
What does integrity look like? It’s matching your actions to the principles and values we just talked about. It’s walking the walk. Be constantly mindful of the life you want to live and the person you want to be, always be on your guard – because if you claim to be one thing and act a different way, you are a hypocrite. You will discredit those of like mind. You will hurt the cause. And you will hurt yourself. Walk in the footsteps of those who did it right - Frederick Douglass, Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Ben-Gurion, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, and MLK.
Never, ever take a shortcut that sacrifices what you know to be good and true.
The final Army value that we remember today is undoubtedly the most difficult to fulfill.
Unfortunately there are those who seek to fundamentally transform America, make her less free – and that requires us to step outside our comfort zones and confront the problems facing our country head on. As I told the crowd at the NRA Convention a few weeks ago, now is the time to stand against the forces assaulting our rights and our freedoms - and we must do so with peace, love, and nonviolence. We will fight by strapping on the full armor of God. We will stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit.
We must stand with courage for the things we know to be true.
As you spend your days this summer with your kids, your friends, and your neighbors - I challenge you to better yourself and to be an example for others. Follow the example of the men and women in uniform, and do your best to live up to the true meaning of the words
Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Courage.
We all owe it to those who have fought and died to preserve our freedom and the Constitution to make sure that we are the best Americans that we can be.