Padre David Stockton offers Memorial Day thoughts (18 May 2019)

Chapter Padre David Stockton delivering a moving address remembering Americas fallen heroes, and paying tribute to GWC members, Albert (Perk) Bingham, Sean Oliver and Robert Huson who are no longer with us. He is assisted by the GWC Color Guard; (from left to right) Marshall Eberhart, Carlos Malone, Sergeant John Kraft and Captain Mike Hutchins (18 Mat 2019).



Picture a quiet nighttime scene deep in the woods of Pennsylvania, during the bitter cold winter of 1777, near a place called Valley Forge.

George Washington, commander-in-chief of a piecemeal army of American recruits, most of them with very little if any experience as soldiers, has taken on the colossal task of defying the world’s most powerful military empire.  The very thought, in and of itself, sounds like suicide.

On this dismal winter night, Washington has little reason to be optimistic about success.  In the year and a half since he assumed command of the Continental Army, there have been more battles lost than won, scores of desertions amidst and army that can barely sustain itself on meager rations, as provisions – and pay – from Congress are often promised but rarely delivered.   

Adding to Washington’s private burden, with General Horatio Gates’ recent victory at Saratoga, there are whispers among members of Congress – and some of Washington’s own officers – that maybe it should be Gates, not Washington, leading the American effort against the British.

From Washington himself down to the lowest private soldier, morale has never been lower.

So George Washington, who towered over six feet in height, this physically imposing giant of a man, (especially tall for the time he lived in), humbles himself in the cold darkness before the Almighty, asking for God’s guidance.  Most of us know the scene, Washington kneeling in the snow with his faithful mount standing just a few feet behind him.  I suspect that was neither the first nor the last time Washington would seek God’s counsel during what must have seemed, more often than not, like the most impossible task he could have imagined.   And from that night in Valley Forge, it would still be another very long, painful, bloody and uncertain four years that lay ahead before Washington’s ragtag band of American soldiers would be forged into an army that would defeat the British and secure the future of an independent United States of America.  And yet, despite that colossal uncertainty – and that logically, an American victory should nothappen – Washington and his men prevailed.

Nor would it be the last time in the history of our nation that uncertainty – the specter of real defeat, the fall of our flag and the triumph of an enemy – would haunt the American conscience.

That grim presence would return again, in 1814 when the British burned Washington D.C.

Across the battlefields of Bull Run, Antietam and Shiloh when the nation nearly tore itself to pieces in the Civil War.

To the battlefields of Europe in World War I, in Europe again and the Pacific in World War II.

To the jungles of Vietnam, when the public sentiment at home abandoned our soldiers.  

And even to the present day, to the battle that continues in Iraq and Afghanistan, when American defenders have had to develop new strategies to defeat an enemy that wants nothing more than to see our great Republic and our way of life fall forever. 

The uncertainty remains. It has been there from the beginning of our history, and it remains today.

But in the face of that, the fighting men and women of the United States have PREVAILED.   And we will continue to prevail.

And so much of WHY we continue to prevail is because of the brave men and women throughout our history who were willing to answer the call during these times of uncertainty, who were willing to stand up and defend America, and, when necessary, make the ultimate sacrifice.

That is what brings us here today.  That is the bond that ties every person in this room.  We chose to be a part of this organization to honor our ancestors who answered the call so long ago, and those who made the sacrifices for us to carry on their legacy.  

Isaiah 61:9:  “Their descendants will be known among the nations, and their offspring among the people.  All who see them will acknowledge that they are the people the LORD has blessed.”

May is the month of Memorial Day, that day where we pay our respects to the fallen heroes who gave their all for the freedoms we take for granted every day.   Not only to remember their names and their sacrifices, but also to be mindful of what they paid for with their lives, an inheritance passed on to ourselves, our friends and loved ones…

A nation of free men. 

Finally, in remembrance, we also keep the thoughts of departed compatriots from our own chapter close to our hearts etc. etc. etc. (ask chapter members to stand and join for moment of silence)

Compatriot Robert Huson

Compatriot Sean Oliver

Compatriot Albert “Perk” Bingham

Matthew 25:23   “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

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