The following speech was delivered by Rick Otey, U.S. Navy veteran and Tremont resident.
Good morning everyone.
Good morning everyone.
I count it a real honor to be able to speak at this dedication ceremony. Veterans, welcome.
Thank you to all of those who have worked so hard on this memorial from its very beginning. It’s something we can all be proud of.
This dedication ceremony is a time to set apart a particular place in order to honor and memorialize those veterans who serve our country in war time and in times of peace.
As you look at this memorial, you’ll see many different textures, including granite, steel, rock, concrete and grass. Each of these textures offers its own particular component to the memorial. Granite with its unyielding firmness and endurance. The steel anchor with its strength and determination. These boulders, from the Mackinaw River, which represent a steadfastness and strength. Reinforced concrete with its ruggedness and the grass that adds a softness that tends to surround the power generating from this place. You’ll also notice the American and POW/MIA flags flying above it.
All of these characteristics can be said of the American veteran. An unyielding firmness and endurance to the end of the mission. A firm strength and steadfastness. A ruggedness to finish the mission as assigned. But along with all of that goes softness, like this grass, to realize that there are moments that command a sympathy and sensitivity to a brother or sister who needs support when the battles get overwhelming. The POW/MIA flag represents those who were held prisoners of war and those still missing in action. Several stones laid here represent ex-POWs. One is for a veteran missing in Viet Nam since November 1971. Yes, it’s been forty years. Two stones represent a Marine and an Army soldier who were killed in action. Our American flag flies above it all to represent our freedom. Today we make our Founding Fathers and those who have gone before us proud.
Our liberties and values stand safe today because of the brave men and women who have been ready to face the fire. We thank God for each and every one of them.
There is a closeness we can all feel at this sacred place. Whether you’re related to someone whose name is placed here in granite or not; you can share in the kinship of being an American citizen. We are surrounded by the spirits of those who have served our country. Those who have sacrificed so much for the freedom we enjoy here on this day.
I encourage the students here today to visit this memorial often. As free Americans, it belongs to you too. Here you will find the true heroes of places you have learned or will learn about in your history books. Places like Gettysburg, Shiloh, San Juan Hill, the trenches of France, the beaches of Normandy, Tarawa, Pearl Harbor, the cane fields of the Philippines, the rice paddies and jungles of Guam, Okinawa, Japan, Korea and Viet Nam. Also places like Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan. When you study those places, think of this place and the men and women who have fought and died at places with these names. Come to visit, come to connect and come to respect them by walking among the stones here. I encourage you to log onto tremontveteransmemorial.com to read stories of local veterans and check back often as more people submit their stories.
I also encourage the students to preserve this place for the generations to come after you. View it as the sacred place that it is. I am reminded of the encouraging words of many students who watched our work as they visited the park this past 2 ½ months. It’s obvious to me that they get it. They get how special this place is. They have witnessed the hard work of the volunteers in building this memorial. Tremont can be proud of its young citizens.
I encourage everyone to come and sit or just walk around the memorial to consume the spirit of this place. Soak in the sacredness of it. Let it drench you until you are overwhelmed with its importance and greatness.
Veterans come from all walks of life, but they all share several qualities. Courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity. One needs these qualities in order to serve a cause greater than one’s self.
We dedicate this site as a sacred place in Tremont where people will gather to take pictures, where veterans will gather to share experiences with each other or just stand or sit alone to ponder thoughts they can never share with anyone. Use this memorial as a place to heal your very soul. We dedicate this memorial to be a place where children will learn lessons of freedom from their parents and grandparents. We also dedicate this memorial as a place where those coming after us will recognize our desire to acknowledge those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom and they will be encouraged to place the same importance on this site as we do here today.
When you lay your head down on your pillow tonight, thank God for the freedom you enjoy here today and ask God’s protection on all of those serving our country this very day all across our world.
May God bless you and may God bless The United States of America.