Those who serve the United States as part of its military and who have sacrificed their lives in its cause are America's "greatest asset," Lieutenant Colonel Frank Sobchak told those gathered on Sunday for Braintree's Memorial Day observance ceremony.
"Members of the Armed forces have been and still are the under-represented one percent – the men and women who can pass stringent medical, physical, and moral standards that allow them to join the select club whose biggest benefit is that it allows them to risk their lives for others," Sobchak said in his keynote speech at .
"One must wonder out loud how many potential presidents, captains of industry, and public servants are among the fallen," he continued. "Yet the ultimate paradox is that they wouldn’t have had it any other way."
Sobchack, a Special Forces Officer fluent in Modern Arabic and Spanish, served in Kosovo, Kuwait and Iraq. He has also taught at the U.S. Military Academy and been awarded various commendations, including the Bronze Star.
On Sunday, Sobchack capped a ceremony that included opening remarks by Congressman Stephen Lynch, hosting by Veterans Agent Richard Walsh, music by the Choir, a reading of recently deceased veterans' names and a recitation by General John W. Carlson, Ret., of a speech by General John A. Logan establishing Memorial Day.
"Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime," Logan, then Commander-in-Chief of the Army, said in his speech on May 5, 1868 in Washington D.C.
"...let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude, – the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."
Lynch, in opening the ceremony, spoke of a recent visit to Southeast Asia as part of a Congressional delegation to check on the work being done by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. They visited Korea, where 8,000 U.S. men and women remain un-recovered, the Phillippines, where more than 78,000 remain, and Vietnam, where the bodies of some 1,100 uniformed personnel are still unaccounted for.
On Lynch's last night in Vietnam, a general there told him why the Vietnamese people respect the United States. As Lynch recalled, the general said that it was not because of America's great military might or its large economy, but rather because of the work the POW/MIA organization continues to do decades after the war, coordinating with forensic pathologists, Vietnamese officials and villagers to recover lost Americans.
"The spirit that general talked about in Vietnam is the same spirit evident today," Lynch said.
Also demonstrated on Sunday – through the words of Sobchack's speech – were the accomplishments of those fallen soldiers. From the American Revolution to the Civil War, World War II and the current fight against the Islamic extremist movement, "America’s fighting forces have truly been a global force for good over the lifespan of our great nation."
"So my brothers and sisters who now rest here, be at peace," Sobchack said. "The republic is safe, the seed of democracy has spread and is growing in places that you could probably never fathom that it would survive, much less blossom, and America’s citizens once again enjoy perhaps the most important of all freedoms, the freedom from fear."