Saturday, November 08, 2003


The following is a speech delivered by my late grandfather (1888-1973). He was mustard-gassed in the Argonne on Nov. 11, 1918, returned to the U.S. to raise a family and have a distinguished career as an educator. He was a proud member of various veterans' groups, and it is to the American Legion in his homestate of West Virginia he spoke on Veterans Day 1956. I hope you will find it interesting to see what people were thinking back then, and to consider whether things have changed all that much.

It is a real honor to be invited to this big, little West Virginia town on this important occasion. As a community, you represent the American way of life at its best in this Mountain State of ours. The spirit of your ancestry still permeates our state and their descendants have been represented on every battlefield in the two great wars.

George Washington, the father of this country, believed in the hardy pioneer of this section of our land when he said during the dark days of the Revolutionary War, “Leave me but a banner to plant on the hills of West Augusta, and I will set this country free.” The motto on our state seal is emblematic of the spirit of West Virginians; that is, the mountaineers are always free. We love freedom and will fight to maintain it.

Our commemorating this 38th anniversary of the end of hostilities in World War I should remind us of the cost and to let the world know that we still are against any “isms” that are not Americanism.

So much has happened since that day when guns were silenced in victory for America and our allies. Tremendous strides have been made in science and research. New inventions and better methods of production have been developed to promote social and economic progress. However, much of that advancement has been used for selfish ends. Too little has been used for cultural and spiritual advancement.

Veterans Day is being celebrated today all over the United States and in many counties of the world. When the firing ceased, 38 years ago at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of November, we gloried in the hope for a world peace.

But instead the most destructive war of history was fought. The battlecry, “Remember Pearl Harbor,” rang throughout the nation and the American people rose as one mighty army to put down another tyrant of a war demon. Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Guadacanal, the Bulge and D-Day will be places in the memory of many an American mother whose son paid the supreme price, with the phantom voice of Tokyo Rose thrown in. It is now 11 years since V-J Day, the end of hostilities, and once more we are striving for peace and good will. But again there is confusion, misunderstanding, selfishness and hatred in the world. National differences among nations should be solved by peaceful means, rather than by force. Force has failed to solve differences among nations. They should be solved by peaceful means, rather than by armed conflict.

Certain ideologies have arisen which seem to make that impossible. One ideology advocates an all-powerful central government, where life is planned from the cradle to the grave. Under that system, the government promises security but takes away all freedom. The symbol of that plan of government is Russia. There, living standards are only a little higher than in China and India.

The symbol of a free government is the United States. Our living standards are the highest in the world. The totalitarian plan would destroy our form of government. They say they have no unemployment in Russia, but their unemployment is taken up by 13 million now living in concentration camps. The others are told where, when and how they are to work. They have no choice such as we have here. They must follow orders or die.

Russia has had the aid of millions of dollars worth of American machinery, airplanes and railroad equipment, yet their production per man hour is small compared to that in the United States. Over here, the American workman has the right to strike but if he were under the Soviet rule in the United States, the workman would not have a job to strike or even be given a chance to raise a protest. He would be rushed off to some concentration camp, follow orders or die. He would be told when to work, how to work and where.

Can you picture that system in the United States, or will we awaken to the dangers that now threaten our country by the fifth column already among us?

There are only six million Communists in Russia, but they are absolute dictators over the 200 million of that great country, which is so rich in natural resources. Here in America we can play the game of politics, mud sling and deride the candidates not of our choice, and then exercise that great American right to vote for whomever we please, even though he might not be the best man for the office. We will not lose our freedom by so doing.

There are those in America who would trade our form of government and our way of life for a mess of pottage - a totalitarian government which offers some security but no freedom.

The greatest threat to this country today comes from those who say one thing and mean another. Those who would trade principles for personal gain. Those who say success is a sin and tell us somebody owes us a living without our working for it, when they know this is unsound and untrue. Those who talk charity and human welfare, but wouldn’t give us a nickel from their own pockets unless they got something out of it for themselves.

The American is willing to surrender some security to enjoy the blessings of freedom. We have brought back the bodies of our men who made the supreme sacrifice on foreign fields. We assemble today to pay solemn tribute to their memory and to honor the men and women who have waged our wars.

This is a proper time to consider what America really means. If everybody in America wanted to go out for a drive, there are enough cars in this country so that we could all go at once. In Russia, it would take years to give everyone a spin around the Kremlin.

This is the greatest country the sun ever shone upon from the pine clad hills to Main to the sunny shores of the Gulf of Mexico, its beautiful rivers, valleys, picturesque mountains, the magnificent Great Lakes, rolling farm lands dotted with homes and loving people, to the Golden Gate of California, where the sun sinks into the West in the evening, kissing a benediction on this great land of ours.

Can you for one minute trade this land for any other ?

The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution have been called the greatest papers ever conceived by man. The rights of an American are set forth in our Bill of Rights. If we had time, I would like to read the Bill of Rights, but I would much rather that each one of you go home and read it for yourselves. Then discuss its articles with your buddies, friends and neighbors.

They were adopted in 1791. More is given in those 10 amendments to the Constitution than any other document of history, except the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments tell us how to live. The Bill of Rights makes secure for us a proper way of life.

Let us briefly consider the provisions of the Bill of Rights. They give us freedom of worship. As a result, millions have enjoyed religious tolerance in the United States. They give us the right of assembly and petition. This does not exist in many foreign lands.

They make secure our homes, our papers and all our effects against unreasonable search and seizure. They give us freedom of speech, press, radio. No other nation enjoys such rights. We can criticize our officials without fear of a concentration camp.

They deprive any one of special privileges. This applies to the industrialist and the labor leaders alike. A man’s home is his castle. No man can be deprived of his liberty or his property without due process of law. We have the right to trial by jury and to call witnesses in our defense and not be required to give excessive bail.

They give the individual the right to work at the job of his choice. The tenth amendment reserves to the people and the states all of the powers not specifically delegated to the federal government. Now the federal government has so greatly expanded its functions that it uses more than 75 percent of the taxes for its operation. This is four times the amount two decades ago.

These are blessed privileges. We are now called upon to meet the challenge whether we can retain them. I like the answer given by Benjamin Franklin when he was asked in front of Independence hall as to what form of government they had given us. “A republic, if you can retain it,” he replied.

How wisely he spoke! There are so many today who would change that republic in exchange for a little security. The time has come for all Americans to assert themselves as to the rights and greatness of being an American. So many say that there is no danger of the fall of America.

Let me call your attention to the glorious civilizations and countries of the past that have vanished. The Venetians developed their rich lands. Then they built boats and established commerce all over the world. That is all gone. The same is true of the ancient Greeks with their marvelous culture. Then came Rome, with its mighty armies, spreading their influence across the seas. None thought they could suffer defeat, but they did.

In our own time, Great Britain boasted proudly that the sun never set on its flag. It had glorious industrial and commercial achievements, and it stood as a bulwark for the liberty of men. Great Britain’s navy ruled the seas. The whole world paid tribute to Britain. The English people, seven centuries ago, wrested the Magna Carta from the king. They won the right of the people to petition for a voice in the government and they gained the right of habeas corpus. That was real human progress.

Today, the same Great Britain is struggling for existence. India is gone. Much of the near east is lost. The dominion of Canada is really an independent state. What brought this all about? It was because they were willing to give up freedom for a little bit of security. Great Britain has fought with its back to the wall on many occasions and won. We hope it will do so again.

There was a bloodless revolution in Great Britain The same occurred in France. The French people were unwilling to sacrifice. The German people wanted an easy way; you know the result.

Capitalism respects both life and property. Socialism has no respect for property. Communism has no respect for life. I do not want to become an alarmist, but I fear a bloodless revolution might be going on in America. Russia cannot afford to go to war, nor does it need a shooting war so long as Russia can make progress in a cold war by bleeding us economically. In world affairs, they are forcing us to spend billions of dollars each year for a defense program and to arm the nations of western Europe.

Let us take warning. On this Veterans Day, as a tribute to the men and women of all wars who have sacrificed that we might retain freedom, let us resolve that we will work harder and sacrifice more, that we may retain the great heritage given us by our fathers.

What, as loyal Americans, are we to do to bring this about?

First, we need great production in the United States. Our economy of plenty has made us a rich country of high living standards. Great production will be accomplished by better “know how,” improved tools and more work.

Second, while minorities have a right to be heard, they must not be permitted to destroy. America must be governed by majority rule and in no other way.

Third, political parties are a safeguard against minority rule. A strong minority has an important mission, but it is not able to perform that mission unless there is party solidarity. Too many weak political parties were partly the cause of the downfall of France. The United States needs two strong, virile and clean political parties, and no more.

Fourth, every true American must take a part in politics and government. A political slacker is just as dangerous as a military slacker. It is shameful that in many primary and general elections, less than one-third vote. Three hundred thousand American boys and girls in the last war made the supreme sacrifice to insure free elections.

Fifth, the United States must take its proper place in the world in order to insure the peace of the world. We must not proceed blindly. We must know the whole picture. There is a limit to the amount of money that even a rich nation can spend. We must have the courage to direct. The people of the world must know that we expect cooperation in return for our aid.

Sixth, we must retain our “know how” in the U.S. That means the industrial crafts of the America must be protected against the cheap labor of the world in order that we may retain our skill for a national emergency.

Seventh, we must conserve our natural resources. The world can replenish our stockpile of deficit items in return for our help.

Eighth, our national security must be protected by a strong army, navy and air force, backed up by well-trained civilian components and an organized industrial group to properly supply the services. Each must take a part in the defense of the nation. It is not a job for the few but for all.

Ninth, the godly nations of the world must united against the aggressor nations to preserve peace. The greatly blessed America should lead in that movement.

Tenth, we must become a law-abiding, self-sustaining and God-fearing people. The tabernacles, synagogues and churches must be the armories of the great battalions of righteous men and women going forth to preserve peace and good will on earth. From generation to generation, we have fought many wars to earn our right to maintain and cherish this country for the advancement of the individual and the glory of almighty God.

The secret of a better America is the tie between personal advancement and spiritual advancement. For it is as true in a nation as in holy scripture, that where there is no vision, the people perish. A new light which elevates justice and decency must capture America’s heart and thus elevate the world.

Honesty, integrity and civil courage we must have.

The American Legion believes that a return to faith in God in our daily lives is the firmest basis on which to work out our individual, our group and our national problems. Let us be proud of wearing the shining armor of Christianity! We are the modern crusaders. We are today the last defenders of a way of life that was brought to us by Christ himself.

We are defending it against the pagan philosophy of Communism that denies the very existence of God. This is a real fight for God and country, the precept of the American Legion.

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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
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