A Memorial Day observance

The following passage was given by Abbe Guillet, Baker high school French teacher, at this year’s Memorial Day observance on May 30 at Veterans Memorial Park, Riverview Cemetery.

Les sanglots longs des violins de l’automne blessent mon Coeur d’une langueur monotone.

How could I not begin today with the famous poem by Paul Verlaine, read over the radio, the code signaling the beginning of Operation Overlord, the allied invasion on the shores of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944? What a special year this is: commemorating not only the 70th anniversary of D-Day in just seven days, but the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war to end all wars. I am so happy to be here today to speak of the gratitude that we have for the veterans and their families whom we are honoring and remembering. I thank the Baldwinsville Memorial Day Committee, in particular my dearest former colleague and mentor, Mrs. Sarah Baker, for the privilege of being this year’s president.

Last August, I was home at my computer, preparing for a new school year. The television was on and CNN was broadcasting live a ceremony from the White House, honoring a staff sergeant who had served in Afghanistan. I watched President Obama stand behind this soldier and attach a medal around his neck as the following citation was read:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded, in the name of congress, The Medal of Honor to specialist Ty M. Carter, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.

Gallantry. It is not a word we use or hear very often nowadays, a word of French origin, and yet both definitions of this word are so appropriate today as we give thanks to our veterans for their heroic bravery and inspire the young people of this wonderful community with noble-minded behavior in recognition of the freedoms we enjoy because of the sacrifices of those who have served this country.

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