(This was written by Major William Graham Smith as a part of a speech given to the Lamesa Rotary Club, possibly in the 1960s. Mr. Smith lived in Brownfield at the time and was an insurance salesman. He was one of the most patriotic men I have ever had the privilege of knowing. He was also the grandfather of my late husband, Mike Kelly. Please enjoy this and remember why we honor this day.) GCK
Today is Armistice Day. (Now called Memorial Day) According to the dictionary, the word means a cessation of hostilities between parties, by agreement, but with either power retaining authority to start shooting again, provided they give due warning to the other side. That is a cold, impersonal definition, that fails to take into consideration the human element, that plays such an important part into today’s observation of the day.
To me, this is a sacred day. A day that should be given to prayer and meditation. Not one to be spent in wildness and confusion. Today should be a day of self criticism and self appraisal in an effort to find a true answer to the duties we owe to God, to country, to neighbor and to self. This day was created by the bloody sacrifice of thousands upon thousands of the cream of American manhood (1776, 1812, 1860, 1908, 1942) and that sacrifice was in vain, unless we who are here realize our responsibilities and exert every influence we have at our command to attain a true fellowship of human beings resolved to better the conditions of all people.
If the visible spirit of those who gave their lives in war, during our time, could march through the halls of Congress, I would fear for the sanity of our political leaders, because I doubt if a satisfactory answer could be given to the question that would be upon every lip of that vast group. “Why was I murdered in vain?” And then add to that horde the thousands upon thousands from other lands, and gentlemen, we who are here today should hang our heads in shame.
Armistice. A wonderful word to those who eat, breathe and live with death. Never will the memory of the day we fired our last shot leave me. On 12 December 1944, 170 young men moved into front line positions, on the Siegfried Line east of Aachen, Germany. They pushed on through Germany to the Remagen Bridge which they crossed and established the bridgehead that astounded the world. Then, up through the Rhur Valley to the destroyed city of Wuppertal, where we made contact with other armies and withdrew to a small suburb, where I had given orders to the Burgomaster to have the best residences vacated for American troops.
When told that their fighting was over, there were no cheers, or shooting, or any sign of hilarious relief. Only the expression in their eyes changed. And it was a marvelous change. That film of fear was removed and a ray of hope was evident. Just a group of 90 tired boys, only fie of which had started out, shuffling off for a hot bath, and some well deserved sleep. A picture that I cannot give suitable expression to. A picture no one could understand unless he was there.
But today, we find ourselves within another Armistice period, the outcome of which will be determined by our leaders in Washington, and our future leaders. The decisions our leaders make will determine the future of our world for generations to come, and a mistake made today will not only effect our country, but the entire world.
This Armistice Day, let us make a few pledges to those boys who stayed over there.
First, That we will take advantage of every opportunity to express our desires by using our voting privilege. Not only to vote, but to carefully analyze the content of all questions to be determined by ballot, and carefully scrutinize the qualifications of all persons asking for public office, from the dog catcher on up. If he does not come up to specifications, scratch him out, even if he is the only one running.
Second, That we will take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way to spread the doctrine of a free, democratic from of national government, with the complete separation of the Church, the School and the government, and the gradual doing away with our “gimme” form of government, and replace it with a “we give” form of government. It is essential that if we are to retain the principles upon which this government was founded upon, that we, as citizens, show a willingness to give ourselves to our country, instead of demanding that the government give itself to us. We cannot expect to retain any vestige of personal freedom when we constantly make demands upon the national government, as we are doing today. The government of Russia promised the people of Russia everything, and look where they are today. The people of Germany listened to the soft voice of easy living, and look where they are today. You will find that when a people accept gifts from the government, that government will immediately take from the people things much more precious than silver.
Third, That we will rededicate ourselves to the service of God. This country needs more than all else a great, national revival of the religious principles that played such an important part during the early years of our history. This country was founded upon definite religious principles that created in man the wholesome desire to acknowledge that God was the giver of all things, and that thanks were due Him, in word and in deed.
We must bring the church back into its place of prominence as the center of community life. We must forego many of today’s pleasure, and give of our time, money and talents to the service of God. Why? Because today there are 27,000,000 boys and girls in this so called Christian country without anymore religious education than that of those in the deepest areas who have never even heard of our God. 70% or our school children have no religious training. Last Sunday, 90% of our university students slept in. Gentlemen, I defy you to find a country that continued to prosper and serve as a beacon of light to other countries when the adults of that country permitted the youth of that country to grow up in religious ignorance. If you want proof, look at the history books.