Welcomeit is heartening
to see so many Haverhill people gathered to honor those who paid
the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
The original Memorial Day
was to celebrate the battle of Gettysburg in the civil warstill,
to this day, one of the bloodiest battles in American history.
Over the decades, Memorial
Day has come to be a tribute to all those who served in all wars.
Today, as we prepare to celebrate
the 60 th anniversary of D day, the invasion of Normandy, and
as we celebrate the unveiling of the World War II memorial in
Washington DC, it is a fitting day to particularly honor all
those who went off to fight for freedom in World War II.
James J. Fiorentini
It is hard for us today to
imagine December 7 th 1941. On December 7 th, our country, which
we thought then was protected by two oceans, was attacked at
Pearl Harbor. It wasnt just our country that was attacked;
it was the concepts of freedom and democracy everywhere.
It is hard to imagine that
only 63 years ago, it looked to many as if democracy was
going to be defeated and that a horrible new form of government,
fascism, would be the dominant force in the world for future.
It is hard to imagine, but in 1941, the German fascists and their
Japanese allies had conquered China, and Indonesia and much of
the far east, and in the other side of the world had conquered
France, and Belgium and Poland, had driven England back to its
island, had conquered most of Europe and was on the verge of
conquering the Soviet Union. On December 7 th, a Sunday, it appeared
to some that that the light of democracy and freedom was about
to go out on most of the world.
Starting the next day, December
8 th, millions of young men and women in America said that they
would not allow that to happen. Young men everywhere in America
rushed to see how they could serve their country in time of need.
In Haverhill, hundreds of young men and women left high school
and lined up outside the post office to enlist, to fight for
their country and to fight for freedom.
Fight they did. Haverhill
men and women served us in far east, fighting island by island
to recapture the lands taken the Japanese at places like
Iowo Jima, Okinawa, Guadalcanalwhere my uncle Frank served,
in great Naval battles like the battle of Midway, and inch by
inch, our forces retook lands captured by the Japanese and restored
In Europe, our forces fought
in Italy and parts of Africa, and then in the greatest amphibious
invasion in history, on D Day, liberated first France and then
In World War II our land was
completely unitedand those on the home front united to
buy war bonds, to save their scrap metal and to produce the armaments
and weapons that would arm the greatest and best equipped armed
services the world had seen thus far. At the start of the war,
our nation, still recovering from the great depression, had an
11% unemployment rate. By the time the war was going, the unemployment
rate was close to zero, as virtually 100% of our country joined
together to fight for democracy and freedom.
No one can imagine what our
soldiers went through. Our soldiers in the Far East sometimes
spent months without proper rations, our soldiers in Europe and
those who landed at D-day never knew if this day would be their
last, our sailors who were on ships, as Japanese kamikaze pilots
attacked never knew if they would last the hour. Many of our
soldiers and sailors did not return.
But they persevered and fought
on. In 1945, our soldiers, sailors, Marine and airmen, changed
the history of the world, secured freedom and democracy and sent
Nazism and fascism to defeat. It is fitting that 61 years later,
no one today talks of bringing back Nazism or fascism, and, indeed,
writers like the Japanese American Francis Fukuyama say that
Democracy scored a final victory in World War Ii it is, they
claim the end of history.
These soldiers and sailors
did not fight for the beautiful land that surrounds us, although
that is part of it. They did not fight to keep their land free
from foreign invaders, although that was part of it. They fought
for freedom and democracy.
They fought for all of us
to have the rights that we all too often take for grantedthe
right to dissent, the right to disagree, the right to be of a
different political party or a different religion, the right
to be wrong, the right to dissent and our most important and
most precious freedom, a freedom that we all too often take for
granted and never use, the right to vote.
On this Memorial Day, 2004,
let us pause for a moment to remember those who did not come
back, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
At let us join together to
thank those who did come back, and who were able to make it here
today, could I ask all World War II veterans to raise your hands.
Let us join together to welcome them and thank them for their
*Source: City of Haverhill,
Massachusetts Web Site: www.ci.haverhill.ma.us 2-16-05