| Angel Fire, New Mexico, October 14, 1998
Prepared and conducted by Alan D. Cutter
Minister, Presbyterian Church; Vietnam Veteran, U. S. Navy.
We have heard it said, and we acknowledge this truth, time does not dim or heal the memories of war from years gone by. These memories remain fresh and always with us. The events of 35 years ago remain fresh as today's winds, and blow throughout our souls even as we sit here. Time, perhaps, does allow us to redeem our memories.
Upon this day, we have gathered thankfully for God has given to us the gift of memory that we might keep alive those we love.
We arrived in a strange and far off country, and we found a land of stifling heat and humidity, of lush and varied greenness of infinite variety, of noisiness and smelliness beyond our experience, of confusion and bustle, and sudden danger. And we found a land where the language is not so much spoken as we learned our own, but a land where the language is sung in many tones and inflections.
So we came to sing our own song, as we had been taught in our upbringing and our training experiences. We came to sing the "Battle Cry of freedom," built in our corporate national identity in verse after verse of the American experience and dream, sustained by chorus after chorus of "God Bless America." And we arrived ready to enter into that rite of freedom called "war" in this strange, entrancing, beautiful land, knowing that our heritage proclaimed the song of freedom is purchased with offerings of blood.
And how did we find that we sang our song? How did we celebrate our liturgy?
Cordite, chemical and diesel were the incense lifted up.
'Patrol' was our processional, as negotiated towards the place of sacrifice.
Booby traps and land mines were our invocations.
Ambush and engagement our call to worship.
Explosion and bullet whine our hymns of praise.
Blood was our baptism.
Inedible food seasoned by fear and sweat our communion.
Codes were our scriptures, and our litanies were reports and messages.
And the word of the day was: 'death given and death received.'
Evacuation was our recessional.
In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
In the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.
When we have joys and special celebrations we yearn to share, we remember them.
When we see our nations young marching behind our flag, or hear 'taps' played, we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are part of us.
And when we answer the final roll, we know that our brothers and sister will fulfill their duty, and greet us with the words of compassion and friendship, peace and love: