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Honoring Commitment and Devotion to Duty and Country

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Freemasons from throughout Rhode Island and their guests met at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Exeter on Friday, May 27 to lay a wreath at the Masonic Veterans Memorial.

The wreath-laying ceremony was conducted by Robert A. Palazzo, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons for Rhode Island.  He was accompanied by William B. Ripley, Right Worshipful Grand Marshal.  Mekawy E. Elmekawy, Right Worshipful Grand Chaplin for the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, offered opening and closing prayers.  A color guard from Overseas Lodge No. 40 presented the American flag. 

vetcolumnThe Masonic Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 2006.  Wreaths are placed at the memorial each Veterans Day and the Friday preceding the Memorial Day holiday.

The following is Grand Master Palazzo’s Memorial Day address.

Brethren, Ladies, Friends, Welcome.

Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was formerly called, is a day of ceremonies and speeches. Throughout America, and quite candidly this weekend throughout the world, we honor the fallen heroes of our wars. We recall their valor and their sacrifice. We remember the many who gave their lives so that others might live and enjoy the freedoms we at times take for granted. I needn’t tell you how fragile this precious gift of freedom is. All you need do is reflect on the Ukrainian war, and how the men and women of a developing country with limited resources fought (and continue to fight) heroically to defend freedom and a democratic way of life.

In 1863, President Lincoln, at a ceremony in Gettysburg, spoke profoundly and reminded us that through their deeds, the dead have spoken more eloquently for themselves than any of the living ever could; that the living could only honor them by re-dedicating themselves to the cause for which they so willingly gave their last full measure of devotion.

This is especially so today, for in our hearts and minds is the memory of recent and past wars and for all those who sacrificed on the field of battle and for their loved ones who suffered here at home.

The lives that bought our freedom did not come cheaply; it had a cost, it imposed a burden. We are forever indebted to those who have given their lives that we may enjoy the ability to assemble and express our opinions openly. The ability to stand here united and say thank you hardly seems sufficient.

As we survey the seemingly endless rows of markers of those who have served our country, we may never know the answers to questions about their lives. What we do know, however, is why they died. They saw the horrors of war but bravely faced them, certain that their own cause and their country’s was a noble one; that they were fighting for human dignity, for free men everywhere.

Today, we pause to embrace them and all who served our country. We can be worthy of the values and ideals for which they sacrificed--worthy of their courage in the face of fear that few of us will ever experience--by honoring their commitment and devotion to duty and country.

Freedom is never more than one generation away. We do not pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. Freedom must be fought for, protected and handed to them as it was to us and for them to do the same.  For if they do not, history may only tell of a time of what it was like to live in the United States when men were free.

I ask you this evening to gaze upon the sacred grounds of this cemetery. Some assembled here tonight may have felt the bitter taste of war or at least known someone who has. Many come here daily to pay homage to their loved ones while the rest of the world goes about its business. And though the living must go on, let us simply not forget how fortunate we all are.

This weekend and especially Monday, all around our country, we and a grateful nation open our hearts in gratitude for their sacrifice, for their courage, and for their noble service. Today, we simply say with pride, thank you, May God bless and keep you and cradle you in His loving arms until we meet again.