You couldn't ask for a more beautiful day to celebrate high school graduation. True, at 49 degrees the air had a chill quite uncommon to the end of May in central Virginia. Nevertheless, the sun was shining and the air electric with the crowd’s anticipation of the graduates’ pending arrival down below on the football field. The attendees rose as one as the band began playing Pomp & Circumstance, signaling the arriving processional of graduates. The volume of the crowd ebbed and flowed on both sides of the stadium as family members and friends were recognized in their graduation caps and gowns entering the field.
Suddenly the intensity of the crowd surged in spontaneous unison as Private First Class Nicholas William Valentine presenting in full dress uniform, newly enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, stepped forward from between the flag poles and out onto the turf. As this proud young man marched down the field with the unmistakable formal, rigid and dignified posture of a Marine, the unspoken respect and appreciation was absolutely palpable amongst the crowd for the dedicated decision this newly inducted soldier had made his last year of high school.
High honors and sincere appreciation are extended to PFC Valentine, USMC. He is embarking upon a journey of service and sacrifice in sworn dedicated protection of the God-given freedoms we cherish as a country which hundreds of thousands of brave men and women in our military have taken before him. Our hearts weigh heavy as we acknowledge that far more soldiers than we would ever hope have fallen to never return from that noble journey.
Amongst the white sales and barbecues and baseball games and movie premiers and campouts across this nation this weekend, we pray that everyone of us takes a moment of sincere reflection upon the sacrifice of this country’s honorable fallen warriors. For it is their valiant service and willingness to pour their very blood upon the altar of freedom which has guaranteed our rights to, not only enjoy such valued family recreational activities, but also has guaranteed our right to bear arms, worship our God how and when we may, and stand up, letting our voices be heard by one and all. It is the continuing noble service of the brave men and women of our military that continue to seal the promise of that guarantee upon these very rights and so many other such rights.
As John F. Kennedy once said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it remembers, the men it honors.” So to all you magnificent warriors, both men and women, who serve this very day, we say thank you. To all you brave soldiers who have faithfully served, we say thank you. To all the valiant men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, paid the final price and delivered up, as President Abraham Lincoln said, “the last full measure”, our gratitude fills our hearts to overflowing.