My vivid recollection of the Gettysburg Address dates back to the years when my children were small. One year, in particular, put the whole town of Milton, Massachusetts in remembrance mode, including the students who participated in the Memorial Day celebration. We all gathered at the Milton Cemetery to pay homage to the war dead. My son played saxophone in the school band. His twin sister, dressed in her Girl Scout uniform, played the flute. And their older sister, who ironically celebrates a birthday today, had the distinction of reciting the Gettysburg Address. That was a proud moment for my family.
That address further anchored Abraham Lincoln as one of the greatest Presidents in history. Not for the length of the speech. It was only 271 words and originally lasted only two minutes long. It followed the two-hour long oratorical speech of Massachusetts’s own Edward Edwards, the main speaker of that historic November day in 1863.
Few remember Edwards’ speech, much less his political contributions of that time. The country remembered Lincoln’s message that commemorated the thousands of men, both Confederate and Union troops, who died in bravery and fear in that sleepy farming community in Pennsylvania in July 1863.
As we celebrate this Memorial Day, let us remember the men and women who died on duty fighting wars to protect America. To help you remember, I have included The Gettysburg Address in this commentary (this is the government version, including strikethroughs).
I also encourage you to visit Gettysburg, Pennsylvania if you haven’t been there since a childhood school field trip. It will make you stop and reflect on the price of freedom.
And please listen to my recent radio interview with Dr. George N’Namdi. His uncle, Lt. Langdon E. Johnson, a Tuskegee Airman, died a hero in World War II when his plane was shot down off the coast of Southern France in 1944.
Here’s the link to last week’s radio program: http://bit.ly/2qjV6jy
Before you stoke up the barbecue grill, pay tribute to the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country free.
We celebrate their lives and their deaths this May 29, 2017, Memorial Day.
Patriots. Citizens. The ones who never came back home.
Transcript of Gettysburg Address (1863)
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that "all men are created equal"
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we cannot consecrate -- we can not hallow, this ground-- The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.
It is rather for us, the living, to stand here, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
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The backyard barbecues, beach picnics and garden parties, though fun, should never overshadow the men and women whose ultimate sacrifice made Memorial Day possible. Real people who died on duty protecting and preserving our country, our freedom and our liberties.
Memorial Day is first and foremost a day of remembrance for the soldiers who died while serving in the armed forces. From the great battles at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to the beaches of Normandy, these brave heroes gave their lives to keep our country safe.
The nephew of one of those great Americans is my guest today. Art gallery owner
Dr. George N’Namdi will take us back to the battlegrounds of World War II in 1944 when his uncle and Tuskegee airman, Lt. Langdon E. Johnson flew his fighter plane throughout Europe, was shot down in the Mediterranean Sea and died a hero…IN FRANCE.
Find out more about this fascinating story and why the French, to this day, pay tribute to Lt. Johnson for his ultimate sacrifice to save Europe from Hitler’s army. It’s a Memorial Day program you won’t want to forget.
Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan, France:
ABOUT LIEUTENANT LANGDON ELMER JOHNSON, Jr.
Lt. Langdon E. Johnson collected an aerial victory six months after arriving in Europe.
Johnson of Rand, W.Va., graduated from flight training on May 28, 1943, at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. In December, he deployed to Italy with the 100th Fighter Squadron, part of the 332nd Fighter Group. The 100th Fighter Squadron flew its first combat mission on Feb. 5, 1944.
On July 20, 20 enemy planes attacked the B-24 bombers being escorted by the 332nd Fighter Group to Friedrichshafen, Germany. Capt. Joseph D. Elsberry, Capt. Armour G. McDaniel, Capt. Edward L. Toppins and 1st Lt. Johnson responded: Each pilot shot down one enemy plane.
A few weeks later, however, an escort mission would end in tragedy.
After escorting bombers to Toulon, France, to destroy radar stations on Aug. 12, the 332nd Fighter Group began to anti-aircraft fire. P-51 Mustangs flown by Johnson and 2nd Lt. Joseph E. Gordon were shot down.
"Lt. Johnson was on my right at this time and I was being fired upon by at least 40mm on my left," Capt. Woodrow W. Crockett wrote in a military report. "Lt. Johnson crossed over to my left and straightened on parallel to my plane and at this time his plane hit the water, ripping off the entire right wing, after which the remainder of the plane crashed into the sea. His ship seemed to have been hit by flak before crashing." Johnson's name is included on the Tablets of the Missing at the Rhone American Cemetery and Memorial in France. According to a government database, he was awarded an Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters and a Purple Heart for his military service.
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.