This Memorial Day speech sample can be used as is or modified to meet a specific event. It is designed for use by a keynote speaker. It is copyright free and can be used for free.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to today’s ceremony and thank you for attending. I’m honored to be speaking with you today on such an important occasion. We’re here today to honor our service members and to remember the sacrifices they have made in honor of duty, honor, country.
The Greek philosopher Thucydides once said, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
We’re here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication, and to say thank you for their sacrifices. Thinking of the heroes who join us in this group today and those who are here only in spirit, a person can’t help but feel awed by the enormity of what we encounter. We stand in the midst of patriots and the family and friends of those who have nobly served.
The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities. They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one’s self.
Many of them didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. Many didn’t even volunteer. They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nation’s call because they wanted to protect a nation which has given them, us, so much.
Since the first shots at Lexington and Concord were fired and our Revolutionary War began, American men and women have been answering the nation’s call to duty.
Millions of Americans have fought and died on battlefields here and abroad to defend our freedoms and way of life. Today our troops continue to make the ultimate sacrifices, and even as we lose troops, more Americans step forward to say, I’m ready to serve. They follow in the footsteps of generations of fine Americans.
The idea for Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, arose from the ashes of the Civil War. Following the Civil War, at least 620,000 Americans, both Union and Confederate, had been killed and hundreds of thousands more were maimed. Through the course of the war, Americans had blasted at each other’s lines with cannons and burned cities and towns on our own soil. Americans had locked each other in prisoner of war camps and torn up the railroads connecting north to south.
Homes, schools and churches from Antietam to Vicksburg were riddled with bullet holes. The war’s unprecedented carnage and destruction was on a scale not even imaginable a few years before, and it changed America’s view of war forever. From those dark times, it was the families who were honoring their dead that began to bring the light of reconciliation.
Although there are different versions of how Memorial Day began, one story goes that the grieving families, both Northern and Southern, began decorating the graves of their lost Soldiers with flowers and wreaths. In one city in Mississippi, people decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate troops, out of respect for the families of the Union Soldiers, and with the hope that someone would do the same for their lost loved ones in the North.
These informal honors led to the first formal Memorial Day observance in Waterloo, New York, on May 5th, 1866. Congress officially recognized Memorial Day as a federal holiday in 1887. Since then, with each passing year and subsequent conflicts, we’ve continued to honor our troops.
We have awarded medals to many Soldiers, added their names to monuments and named buildings for them, to honor them for their bravery. But nothing can ever replace the hole left behind by a fallen service member, and no number of medals and ribbons can comfort the ones left behind.
I’d like to ask the service members and veterans who are here to stand.
Thank you for answering the call to duty. You have made our armed forces the most respected in the world. [Lead applause]
Please be seated.
Now I’d also like to ask the family member of any service member to stand. We know you have lived through difficult times and often taken the heavy load to keep the home fires burning. Thank you for what you’ve done.
Please be seated.
Today, people throughout the country will gather together to remember, to honor, and to pay gratitude to those who have served our country. Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today and every day. It’s not a lot, but its one small way we can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom.
Your presence here today and that of the people gathering all across America is a tribute to those lost troops and to their Families. It is a way to say we remember. From the Soldiers who shivered and starved through the winter at Valley Forge to the doughboys crouched in the muddy trenches of France to the platoon who patrolled the hazy jungles of Vietnam and the young man or woman patrolling the mountains of Afghanistan, we remember and honor them all.
Thank you for attending today. God bless you and your families, God bless our troops and God bless America.
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