Friday, November 12, 2010

Remembering with common sense

Remarks by President Ronald Reagan
Veterans Day National Ceremony
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia
November 11, 1985

PRESIDENT REAGAN: Secretary Weinberger, Harry Walters, Robert Medairos, reverend clergy, ladies and gentlemen, a few moments ago I placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and as I stepped back and stood during the moment of silence that followed, I said a small prayer. And it occurred to me that each of my predecessors has had a similar moment, and I wondered if our prayers weren't very much the same, if not identical.

We celebrate Veterans Day on the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, the armistice that began on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. And I wonder, in fact, if all Americans' prayers aren't the same as those I mentioned a moment ago. The timing of this holiday is quite deliberate in terms of historical fact but somehow it always seems quite fitting to me that this day comes deep in autumn when the colors are muted and the days seem to invite contemplation.

We are gathered at the National Cemetery, which provides a final resting place for the heroes who have defended our country since the Civil War. This amphitheater, this place for speeches, is more central to this cemetery than it first might seem apparent, for all we can ever do for our heroes is remember them and remember what they did -- and memories are transmitted through words.

Sometime back I received in the name of our country the bodies of four marines who had died while on active duty. I said then that there is a special sadness that accompanies the death of a serviceman, for we're never quite good enough to them-not really; we can't be, because what they gave us is beyond our powers to repay. And so, when a serviceman dies, it's a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole, and all we can do is remember.

It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives -- the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember.

There's always someone who is remembering for us. No matter what time of year it is or what time of day, there are always people who come to this cemetery, leave a flag or a flower or a little rock on a headstone. And they stop and bow their heads and communicate what they wished to communicate. They say, "Hello, Johnny," or "Hello, Bob. We still think of you. You're still with us. We never got over you, and we pray for you still, and we'll see you again. We'll all meet again." In a way, they represent us, these relatives and friends, and they speak for us as they walk among the headstones and remember. It's not so hard to summon memory, but it's hard to recapture meaning.

And the living have a responsibility to remember the conditions that led to the wars in which our heroes died. Perhaps we can start by remembering this: that all of those who died for us and our country were, in one way or another, victims of a peace process that failed; victims of a decision to forget certain things; to forget, for instance, that the surest way to keep a peace going is to stay strong. Weakness, after all, is a temptation -- it tempts the pugnacious to assert themselves -- but strength is a declaration that cannot be misunderstood. Strength is a condition that declares actions have consequences. Strength is a prudent warning to the belligerent that aggression need not go unanswered.

Peace fails when we forget what we stand for. It fails when we forget that our Republic is based on firm principles, principles that have real meaning, that with them, we are the last, best hope of man on Earth; without them, we're little more than the crust of a continent. Peace also fails when we forget to bring to the bargaining table God’s first intellectual gift to man: common sense. Common sense gives us a realistic knowledge of human beings and how they think, how they live in the world, what motivates them. Common sense tells us that man has magic in him, but also clay. Common sense can tell the difference between right and wrong. Common sense forgives error, but it always recognizes it to be error first.

We endanger the peace and confuse all issues when we obscure the truth; when we refuse to name an act for what it is; when we refuse to see the obvious and seek safety in Almighty. Peace is only maintained and won by those who have clear eyes and brave minds. Peace is imperiled when we forget to try for agreements and settlements and treaties; when we forget to hold out our hands and strive; when we forget that God gave us talents to use in securing the ends He desires. Peace fails when we forget that agreements, once made, cannot be broken without a price.

Each new day carries within it the potential for breakthroughs, for progress. Each new day bursts with possibilities. And so, hope is realistic and despair a pointless little sin. And peace fails when we forget to pray to the source of all peace and life and happiness. I think sometimes of General Matthew Ridgeway, who, the night before D-day, tossed sleepless on his cot and talked to the Lord and listened for the promise that God made to Joshua: “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

We're surrounded today by the dead of our wars. We owe them a debt we can never repay. All we can do is remember them and what they did and why they had to be brave for us. All we can do is try to see that other young men never have to join them. Today, as never before, we must pledge to remember the things that will continue the peace. Today, as never before, we must pray for God's help in broadening and deepening the peace we enjoy. Let us pray for freedom and justice and a more stable world. And let us make a compact today with the dead, a promise in the words for which General Ridgeway listened, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

In memory of those who gave the last full measure of devotion, may our efforts to achieve lasting peace gain strength. And through whatever coincidence or accident of timing, I tell you that a week from now when I am some thousands of miles away, believe me, the memory and the importance of this day will be in the forefront of my mind and in my heart.

Thank you. God bless you all, and God bless America.

Monday, November 8, 2010

It was pretty schweet

Tomorrow is our one month anniversary.
Earlier last week Jim asked me if I wanted to go on a picnic. Yes please and thank you.

Saturday morning, he stepped out on our deck and made a phone call. Afterwards he said that we would need to leave by 11:30 to go to the picnic. He wouldn't tell me where. Well, I love surprises. Seriously, I do. Not scary surprises. Real ones.

So, I got ready, asked him if my shoes were appropriate, and climbed into the truck. A little later we pulled up to...

the airport.

I sat there for a second. "You're taking me flying?! Really?!"
He just grinned.
"Are we having a picnic in the air?"
"Um.... I don't know. Maybe."
Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Cue theme song.

So, my husband gave me an aerial view of my new home and its surroundings. Basically, he blew all other dates out of the water.

He taught me a little tiny piece of flying a
plane knowledge. Air speed, the wet compass, vertical speed, flying with instruments only,
using the rudders in the turns.... he even let me fly it. After 2 minutes I was exhausted (I was, apparently, using my whole upper body to grip the "wheel") and gladly relinquished "control." He then headed to our destination.

Dauphin Island! I mean, the plane ride already had me amazed but we were going to have a picnic on the beach?! I really think my brain had a very minor implosion at that moment.

Anyway.... it was an incredible day. My pilot husband landed on the tiny little strip with nary a jolt to his bride's head. We grabbed our bag and blanket and set off in the direction that we hoped was the beach. Duh Amy, you were on an island. Every direction is the beach. Oh yeah. Darn.
We walked out onto the cool sand. Sand that was so dry it didn't stick to your feet. The beach was completely empty except for one other couple and the occasional clean-up crew. We spread out.... and the first seagull landed. She proceeded to keep all of the other seagulls away. Thanks. Still no food for you, though.

It was an absolutely incredible day spent with my best friend. We ate PBJs and chocolate cake. I chased the seagulls while he tried to nap. He took off without a problem despite the direct crosswind. You know, part of me feels all bomb-diggety because I'm using all of these terms... but I'm really afraid I'm not using them correctly. He stalled the plane three times in a row (purposely) on the way home and my stomach was introduced to my uvula. My headset was green and the mouth piece barely worked. I had to chew on it just right before Jim could hear me. And if that even registered on the "Complaints of the Day" radar.... it would be the only one.
Dear husband,
I love you. I cannot wait until our 2 month anniversary.
Love, your wife

P.S. I kidd

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I bet Martin Luther would have fled.

Saturday night I went on base where Jim was on duty and watched the Auburn game with him. Number one I wanted to see him. Number two to escape the Barbarian horde. Some of you call them trick-or-treaters.

Sunday evening rolled around. Fifth Sunday so no evening church. We were on his computer, trying to fix my blog. I suggested we go somewhere. We continued to sit. The house got darker and darker and we had not gotten up to turn on any lights.

Amy - "Well, I think that will work."
Jim - "Are you satisfied?"
Amy - "Yes, thank y (ding dong!) ..... what?!"
Jim, looks confused, then his eyes widen - "It's a trick-or-treater! We forgot to get out of the house!"
Amy, hissing - "Quick, close the computer or they'll see the light!"
Jim - "Slowly. If they see the light go out fast, they'll know we're here!"

We didn't make a sound. We slowly clicked the laptop shut... and crept to the front door and peered into the foyer. There were a lot of Barbarians traipsing around on our road. "Maybe they'll think we aren't home?," I asked. "Maybe," he said, "Maybe, they'll tell everyone else that too. Oh no! The garage door is wide open! They'll know we're here!" "No. No... maybe they'll just think we are idiotic people who leave our house wide open to the world."
They continued to walk around, waving their plastic bags. It was apparent that it was hard to walk with such garb. Parents kept up with their kids by creeping alongside the yards in their cars, flashers on, obviously embarrassed they allow their children to do this. We saw several teenagers not dressed up at all, but still asking for candy. Lame.
"We're trapped like rats," Jim said. "Hey! Do you still want to go somewhere?"
"Yes. Definitely."
"Let's do it. Get a sweatshirt."
Getting ready to go takes longer in a pitch black house. But we managed... with occasional short bursts of on-off light activity.
We crawled into our garage, slipped into the truck, and fled. And it's a good thing too. Their reinforcements were trudging up the hill towards our subdivision.