On this Memorial Day weekend, I would like to thank all the men and women who have defended this country from its start to the present day. It is not without great sacrifice and dedication that you have put your lives in harm’s way for the promise of a peaceful return to a more simple life. Those of us who have benefited from your commitment salute you and humbly thank you for your selfless acts.
One of the greatest conversations transcribed during war came at the battle of Gettysburg between Colonel Arthur Freemantle and Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead (a notable Virginian). That conversation is played out in the movie, “Gettysburg.” Armistead reveals, in this short discourse, the very heart of Virginia. But, this dialog could have played out on a hundred battle fields since the Revolution. One of the reasons America is great is reflected in the great men and women who have sworn to defend her.
Col. Arthur Freemantle: I’m told you’re descended from an illustrious military family.
Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead: Who told you that? Kemper?
Col. Arthur Freemantle: He tells me it was your uncle who defended Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, and that he was therefore the guardian of the original “Star-Spangled Banner.” I must say, I do appreciate the irony of it all.
Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead: Colonel Freemantle… it does not begin or end with my uncle… or myself. We’re all sons of Virginia here.
Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead: That major out there, commanding the cannon… that’s James Dearing. First in his class at West Point, before Virgina seceded. And the boy over there with the color guard…
Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead: … that’s Private Robert Tyler Jones. His grandfather was President of the United States. The colonel behind me… that’s Colonel William Aylett. Now, his great-grandfather was the Virginian, Patrick Henry. It was Patrick Henry who said to your King George III, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” There are boys here from Norfolk… Portsmouth… small hamlets along the James River. From Charlottesville and Fredericksburg… and the Shenandoah Valley. Mostly, they’re all veteran soldiers now; the cowards and shirkers are long gone. Every man here knows his duty. They would make this charge, even without an officer to lead them. They know the gravity of the situation, and the mettle of their foe. They know that this day’s work will be desperate and deadly. They know, that for many of them, this will be their last charge. But not one of them needs to be told what is expected of him. They’re all willing to make the supreme sacrifice… to achieve victory, here… the crowning victory… and the end of this war. We are all here, Colonel. You may tell them, when you return to your country… that all Virginia was here on this day.