Memorial Day 2019
IF YOU CAN KEEP IT
In September of the year 1787, the Constitution of the United States was completed & signed. The delegates had been working on it for almost four months, & their deliberations had been held in strict secrecy. As a result, when the proceedings ended, anxious citizens had gathered outside Independence Hall to learn what had been produced behind closed doors.
As the delegates exited the building, so the story goes, a Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
As we gather this morning, in honor of all who have given their lives for the freedoms of our nation, the question today as back in the day of Benjamin Franklin is: “Can we keep it?” There are powerful forces at work trying to divide the people of our nation. Benjamin Franklin no doubt saw the same thing going on in his day.
One of the ways I learned the value of our freedom was through these annual observances at the three cemeteries in Blumfield Township. My father, Clinton, was one of the founding members of Post 229, 70 years ago. The chief thing I remember of Memorial Day, from my youth, was attending these ceremonies & then the free pop & hot dogs at the township hall.
For as long as I can remember, men like Arnold Heidenberger have read the roll call, countless numbers of men have fired the 3-volley salute, & someone from the Frankentrost Band would play taps. The flag would be raised & the flag would be lowered, while our thoughts & prayers went out on behalf of all who gave their lives in the pursuit of “keeping” our republic.
In 1978 I enlisted in the Navy. In 1980 I began four years of service onboard one of our nuclear-powered submarines. As we prepared to leave port one April, at the time it was to be the longest continuously submerged mission any sub had ever attempted. Many of the crew were speculating that we would not make it back alive. That evening I boarded the boat just as taps was being played & I found it rather poetic to hear the sound of that bugle call as I descended the ladder for what might be the final time.
Obviously, I survived, but I gained a tremendous appreciation during those years for the sacrifices that all our military members, & their families, make during their time of service. Yes, our nation, our leaders & our people have been far from perfect in the conduct of our freedom, but thousands upon thousands of immigrants are crossing our southern border today to be free.
What has been lost upon many of the loudest voices in our day is the cost of that freedom. What has been lost upon many of the loudest voices in our day is the incredibly difficult task it is to keep our republic. Law & order is needed because, tyranny is the natural bent of the heart of all men. If the battle against it ends, then our freedoms will be lost.
For 100 years the men & women of the American Legion have been working in times of peace, as well as in times of war. They have been working to educate the people, & the children, of the high price of freedom & of the eternal vigilance that is necessary to defend it. Too many people today would trade our freedoms for what they suppose to be financial security.
Human beings need a call to higher service than the service to self alone. The American Legion & organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars have been providing opportunities for millions of American citizens to volunteer for the benefit of others. They have worked to remind people that freedom does not come without cost, & it is too valuable a blessing to just surrender.
Love for the freedoms & responsibilities that our constitution offers must be taught. Many of the loudest voices in our nation are now teaching young people that our country has been wrong to defend our freedoms; that it has been wrong to enforce the laws of our land. It is more important than ever, in our day, to educate people on the principle of limited government. If it takes over too many aspects of our lives it becomes a dictator by default. Government is not, by its nature, benevolent or good. Nazi Germany, the Communist Soviet Union & the Socialist Venezuela all had governments that took away the freedoms of their people.
Our declaration of independence states that mankind has certain unalienable rights which do not derive from government at all. Those rights come from our Creator & they are not determined by voting, nor by government bureaucracy. Government should be a tool to serve the people, not the other way around.
Freedom requires the diligence of the people who are blessed by it. Let us not forget the men & women who died to maintain our freedoms, whether the threats were from without or from within. Ceremonies like these may seem outdated in our high tech world, but technology will not teach our young people the value of freedom. Nor will it protect their freedoms.
May God bless us as we endeavor to maintain our freedom, & help us to use those freedoms for the good of all mankind wherever possible.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet