Comments for Lexington park Medal of Honor Ceremony 9/30/2017
Only a few short years ago, I was privileged to be part of the ceremonial guard for the unveiling of this magnificent statuary tribute to the three medal of honor awardees; Sgt. Harris, Pvt. Barnes, and Quartermaster Hayden, who’s service we are here to remember today and all the men of St. Mary’s County who placed their lives on the line to preserve the Union and free a people from bondage.
In our current era of history, when symbols have become front page news, this monument takes on even more importance. A primary goal of the Sons of Union Veterans is the remembrance of men like those named on this monument. We seek to, as we say, keep green the memory of the sacrifices made by both the soldier and his family to ensure that President Lincoln’s bold vision of emancipation and his pledge that “Government of the People, for the people, and by the people should not perish from the Earth” would prevail.
It was the men, whose names appear in such bold relief upon this monument, and many thousands of others who joined the United States Colored Troops, that took up the great work of fulfilling Lincoln’s call to complete the rebirth of our nation under the principles originally stated in Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. They were willing to commit their lives to a greater cause. For they not only fought to preserve the Union and establish freedom in the United States; they fought to achieve respect and equality for an entire race of human being who had for too long lived under the shadow of oppression and servitude.
Insert Adlib – A previous speaker had noticed that the park was full of young men playing organized football as their parents watched from bleachers overlooking the fields. I addressed those attending the Medal of Honor ceremony thusly “I would ask each of you, why aren’t those young men and their parents here with us? Don’t they know how important remembering those who gave so much to ensure that they have the freedom they are enjoying?” Let me say this. I find no fault in the young men or their parents. The fault lies in the lack of knowledge they have about the men named on this monument and that has led to their perceived indifference. My mother once told me that if you are remembered you never die but if your name becomes lost to history and meaningless you truly die forever. Will that be the fate of the names on this monument? Only time will tell, but I pray it will not be so.
So, here we are. We have come here to reaffirm these men and remember their names in a society that is less and less aware of them. To us falls the obligation to ensure that these men do not die forever, that they are remembered by future generations for their dedication to the cause of freedom, and honored for their valor. We, the living descendants and recipients of the freedoms and privileges they struggled to obtain; must fulfill our obligation to all the men who Lincoln said, “Gave the last full measure of devotion.” We must hold ourselves accountable for preserving their memory and commit our every energy to educate our youth and perpetuate a sense of duty within society to never forget those of the past and their efforts to bequeath us the great nation we live in today.
Speech written and presented by Mark R. Day, September 30th 2017 at the 2nd Annual Medal of Honor Ceremony held by the Sgt. James H. Harris Camp #38 Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War in Lexington Park, Maryland. Copyright by Mark R. Day 9/30/2017, all rights reserved