Prosecutor Lutz's Memorial Day Addresses in Burbank and Creston

Lutz, Memorial Day, 2015, Address, Dan, Prosecutor, Wayne County

I’ve heard it said that a man is never more like God then when he gives. And there is certainly merit to that statement because God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.  

I’ve also heard it said by others that a man is never more like God then when he forgives.  And there is, of course, truth to that statement also since, through His Son, God offers forgiveness to those who believe. 

But I believe that a man is never more like God than when he sacrifices his own life so that others may live, because Jesus Christ did just that for us on the cross, and He Himself proclaimed, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” 

So I want to thank each one of you for being here today to honor the men and women who have shown such love - love of country and love for us, their fellow countrymen - those brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, coastguardsmen, and marines who have laid down their lives so that you and I can live free. 

Because of the significance of these ceremonies to me, each year I try to take away at least one thing from each that I can think about long after the ceremony is over. And there is one Memorial Day ceremony in particular that stands out for me because there was not just one thing I remember, but actually two things that have stuck with me over the years. One of those things was a “question” that was asked, and the other was a “thank you” that was expressed. 

First, I’ll speak to the “thank you.”  Here with me today, along with my wife, Theresa, is my youngest son, Reagan, who is 13 years old.  But nine years ago, in 2006, I brought my oldest son, Ken, to Orrville’s Memorial Day ceremony. Today Ken is 21 years old, so he was 12 years old back then.

Immediately after that ceremony concluded, Orrville resident Bob Hershey, who had served on General Douglas MacArthur’s staff both during and after WWII, came up to me and thanked me for bringing my son to the ceremony. You see Bob Hershey thanked me for bringing my son to that Memorial Day ceremony because he was concerned that too many people were taking freedom, and the sacrifices that have been made to secure our freedom, for granted. And, as a result, Bob felt that the continuing obligation to carry the torch of liberty was not being adequately passed down to our children and grandchildren. And so, Bob was thanking me for bringing my son.

Ever since that Memorial Day ceremony nine years ago, I have frequently thought about Bob Hershey’s gratitude, and I’ve continued to ponder his concern. Through the years, I have often wondered whether we, as Americans, are taking freedom, and the lives that have been lost defending it, for granted, and – if so – why?

Those of us who are parents know that a child who has to earn a toy most often takes better care of it than a child who is simply given a toy as a gift. So I have wondered whether our country has become a nation of people given not a toy, but the precious gift of liberty who, like children, are abusing that gift with a carelessness that comes from not knowing its true value?  In other words, we may easily enough say, “freedom isn’t free”, but can we really appreciate the value of freedom when we have never had to live without freedom?  Can we truly understand the price of freedom when most of us have never actually fought for freedom, nor lost someone close to us, who has?

About 10 years ago, when I was still in the private practice of law, I had a memorable conversation with a client named Tom.  Tom was from Hungary. And although Hungary had recently been freed from Soviet tyranny and was enjoying a degree of freedom, Tom had lived in Hungary prior to the collapse of the godless Soviet state when freedom was nonexistent.  

I distinctly recall during one particular appointment with Tom how he commented to me that Americans do not seem to appreciate how good we really have it here in the United States. I asked Tom why he felt that way. Tom explained that he believed that too many Americans were taking freedom for granted.  And he cautioned that if the American public did not become more vigilant about defending our liberties, we would be at serious risk of losing them. You see, Tom had lived under tyranny.  He had experienced oppression.  Tom knew the value of freedom because he had lived without it.

But there are those of you among us this morning who have actually fought for freedom.  You have laid your lives on the line serving this country in combat, and I certainly honor and thank you. I’m quite certain that you, like Tom, understand the value - and especially the price - of freedom.

Despite my military service, I have never had to fight for freedom in combat.  Nor have I lived under true tyranny or real oppression. Yet, somehow, I still grew up admiring the minutemen at Bunker Hill, the bluecoats who held Cemetery Ridge and the gray coats who bravely charged it. The GI’s who liberated Europe and those who had fought in the jungles of Asia were all heroes to me. Their courage and conviction inspired me.

As a child, my favorite pastime was playing war.  With our toy weapons in hand, my friends and I would run the neighborhood pretending to fight the battles of Lexington, or Gettysburg, or the Bulge. You see, even as a young boy, the example of these brave men who fought for freedom throughout this nation’s history made me proud to be an American, and I wanted to be like them.

My point is, never having lived without freedom, and having only played at war, I still somehow came to understand the value of freedom. I still somehow learned to appreciate the sacrifices of those who actually fought the wars to end tyranny – those who created the nation that gave my ancestors a place of refuge, and me a life of peace and opportunity. But how did this happen?  How did I come by that understanding?  How did I arrive at that appreciation?

That brings me to the second thing that I took from that Orrville Memorial Day ceremony nine years ago – “the question.”  The guest speaker that year was now-retired Army General Tod Carmony.  Some of you may know Tod. Tod Carmony is the President and CEO of Wayne Mutual Insurance in Wooster.  And just a couple years ago, he retired as a 2-star Major General from the Army National Guard. 

At that 2006 Memorial Day ceremony, General Carmony repeatedly asked the provocative question, “But what are you doing?”  The point of the General’s question was to express a similar concern to the concern expressed by Bob Hershey. The General was asking those of us in attendance that day, what were we doing here at home while American service men and women were sacrificing so much for us overseas?  In other words, what were we doing to show that we are not taking their sacrifices for granted?

So, as with the Bob Hershey’s “thank you”, I have also thought long and often about the General’s question. I’ve wondered what am I doing here at home for the cause of freedom apart from simply enjoying freedom’s blessings that have been secured by the blood of those whom we honor on this day?  What are you doing?

Well, I’m here this morning to tell you, you are doing it.  Like those Americans who have bravely served, and are serving in harm’s way, you also are heroes. You are heroes because by simply being here this morning you proudly show your love of this country and what it stands for, and you have vowed to remember those who have died defending it. As stated in the Gettysburg Address which was read earlier, you have highly resolved “that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

You see, because of the example of people like you, I grew up appreciating the greatness of this nation.  And I learned to admire and respect the lives that have been lived – and lost – that made it so.

From people like you, I learned to never take freedom, or the price of defending freedom, for granted.  And I was taught to value the opportunities made available to me by the deaths of those “whom more than selves their country loved.”

Because of people like you, I was encouraged to cherish this nation’s rich, wonderful history and, by my study of it, I came to understand this country’s unique role in the course of human events.

Because of people like you, I was inspired to join the military and serve the greatest country ever to exist – a nation that has been the source of the greatest good the world has ever known.

It is you people here this morning who are teaching our children the special standing of a nation that was conceived in liberty and blessed by God. You do so because you understand in your hearts, that we are in fact, as our Declaration of Independence proclaims, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights - unalienable because these rights come from God and not from men and, therefore, they cannot be legitimately taken away from us by men.

You are role models for our youth because you live your lives every day with integrity, reverence for God, hard work, service to others, and generosity, thereby testifying by your example to what it really means to be Americans.

Some of you are doing so as public school teachers who are faithfully teaching the true history of this nation even when today’s textbooks sometimes do not.

Some of you are doing so in Sunday school classrooms where you are impressing upon our children that every good and perfect gift, including the blessing of freedom, is from above.

Most of you are doing so as parents and grandparents because you are holy examples to your children and grandchildren of what it looks like to be truly grateful to God for how He has so blessed America.

And all of you obviously attend solemn ceremonies, such as this one, and, in so doing, you pass along the importance of an ideal that had made this country, as a great man once said, “a shining city on a hill.”

Ronald Reagan also once said: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.  We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.  It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

And so, by simply being here this morning, you, and those like you attending Memorial Day ceremonies across this land, do more than you may realize to ensure freedom’s future. Because how our children perceive a nation’s attitude toward its fallen heroes, directly influences their desire to someday, themselves, take up the torch of freedom and serve our country.

I brought my oldest son to that Memorial Day ceremony in Orrville nine years ago, and I’ve brought my youngest son to this ceremony today because, somewhere along the way, I learned from the example of people like you, people like Bob Hershey, that I have a responsibility to pass the baton of liberty, along with the obligation to defend it, to my children.

There is nothing I have personally done or accomplished of which I am more proud than to have worn this uniform in service to this great country.  And if one or both of my sons would someday choose to serve in the United States military, yes, that also would make me very proud. But in these very dangerous times that we now live, you might understandably ask me if I would fear that my sons might die serving their country.  You bet I would.  But do you know what I fear more? … I fear that my boys might grow up believing there is nothing worth dying for.

Abraham Lincoln once warned: "America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

So as Bob Hershey thanked me, I thank you.  You are heroes – perhaps not on the battlefield of war, but certainly on the battlefield of ideas.  And, as Abraham Lincoln rightly observed, it is ideas that will ultimately determine America’s destiny. So if you are ever asked the question, “But what are you doing?,” you can rightly stand up and resolutely say, “I am doing it.”