By Judge David Rosenberg
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is an honor and a privilege for me to join you on this Memorial Day. Throughout California and the United States, and wherever the flag of this country flies, Americans are taking time to remember and reflect on this day.
You know, Memorial Day was originally dedicated to the soldiers who died in the Civil War. At that time, it was called Decoration Day because people went to cemeteries and put flowers on graves. People still do that today. In that Civil War, it is estimated that 655,000 soldiers lost their lives. In World War I 116,000 soldiers died, and in World War II another 405,000 soldiers died. The lives of 58,000 soldiers were lost in Vietnam and another 36,000 in Korea. The Iraq war claimed another 4,500 lives and the war in Afghanistan resulted in another 2,500 American deaths. More than 1 million American service men and women have died in our country’s wars, each one loved and remembered by someone back home.
Today, we gather in cemeteries, we march in parades, bands play, people give speeches. We pause in reflection. We tell our stories to a new generation about our history, about our sacrifices. We remember. And we say “thank you for your service” to the Veterans among us.
At this time, may I ask all service men and women, and all veterans who have served, to please rise from your seats (if you are able) or raise your right hand – so that we may recognize you and your service to us.
I remember back in 1968 I was about to graduate from college. The Vietnam War was reaching a crescendo. Many of my friends and I were enrolled in ROTC. During that last year of college, one of my fraternity brothers set me up on a blind date. In fact, it was a double-blind date – a classmate, fraternity brother, and friend of mine – David Plummer – and I were both set up on blind dates and we went out together. Interestingly, both of us wound up marrying the young ladies that same year. And both David Plummer and I graduated and were commissioned as second lieutenants in the US Army. We were so young – just 20 – and we were full of energy and spirit.
I was shipped off to duty overseas as was David Plummer. I was sent to Germany – where the cold war was in full bloom – and David was sent to Vietnam – where a very hot war was raging. I lived, and David Plummer died. I’ve been married to same young lady for over 50 years, and David left a young widow behind. It could easily have been the other way around.
Today we remember and honor the Lieutenant David Plummers and all the other service men and women who served with honor, some who died, some who were wounded, some who were heroes, and others who just did their duty as best they could.
My own time in the military was brief – just two years on active duty and four years in the reserve, but the lessons I learned about honor and duty and service have stayed with me my entire life. In fact, in retrospect, as I enter the final quarter of my life, it is safe to say that I have dedicated my life to honor, duty and service – lessons I learned from my days in the military. And I think about my friend, David Plummer, quite a bit. Certainly on Memorial Day. He is not forgotten.
Many of you are here today because you have friends, parents, children, brothers and sisters, who served this country. You remember them. They are not forgotten.
I’m sure that we all agree – we live in turbulent times. But in truth, the history of this great experiment in democracy – spanning the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries – is a turbulent history. It is rare to live at a time when we have not called on our sons and daughters to stand in defense of our country, our rights, our freedoms, our values.
Sometimes we may take for granted that we have the right to vote and freely elect our leaders, that we have the right to speak our minds and print our books, that we have the right to go to the church or temple of our choice or to choose not to do that, that we are innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law, that we have the right to marry whomever we want and to work wherever our talents and skills will take us.
For the men and women who honorably served in our military, and to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice – let us never take our freedom and our rights for granted. They certainly did not.
May all who are here for this ceremony find healing and peace. May God bless each of you and may God bless America.
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