Deal pays tribute to fallen soldiers' legacy of honor

May 20, 2014

To the soldiers, families, elected officials and others, welcome to our state Capitol for this year’s Memorial Day ceremony.  And to Peachtree City Brass, thank you for a beautiful rendition of our national anthem.  

Certainly we have all heard a wide range of musicians offer a variety of interpretations of this song. When we attend Braves games or other events around the nation, we dutifully put our hands over our hearts in reverence and offer our voices up in patriotic harmony. But I ask our state this: Have we stopped listening, when we really should stop to listen—to the power of our anthem’s words and the chorus of soldiers who year after year give meaning to them?

Our servicemen and women have taken up arms in defense of liberty and loved ones. In doing so, they have sacrificed much and sometimes all because they know, in the words of Ronald Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” We must fight to keep it; but that also means we might have to endure tragedy. 

Georgia has lost 16 soldiers since we stood here only one year ago. Today, we rightfully recognize the service and sacrifice of each of them. 

To the families here, I can offer no fitting words of gratitude, but nevertheless I say thank you. Your sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers … are heroes. While they would not want us to grieve them forever — we can remember them forever. This very truth is why we hold Memorial Day ceremonies such as this one, and I’m proud that you could be a part of it as we remember these Georgians and the generations before them who have given so much.  

To all current and former members of our armed services, thank you, as well. You and your fellow soldiers have built for yourselves and our country a profound legacy of honor — one which will last. In the words of our national anthem, “Oh say does that Star - Spangled Banner yet wave.” 

Every time someone sings this line, I can’t help but be moved. It reminds me that through “rocket's red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” our flag still stands. Through devastating sacrifice and unimaginable courage, our flag stands.  Through smoke and ashes it persists. Through blood and tears it waves. And through peril and triumph it remains.  Through Normandy and Afghanistan and Valley Forge it still stands…for liberty and justice for all. This is the legacy of those we honor today.   

History is riddled with empires that have crumbled, countries that are no more and men and women who have known only the hope of freedom, never tasting it for themselves. Yet over Georgia and over this nation, Old Glory still flies.  As it waves defiantly, with morning sunlight cresting through the crevices of battle wear, I see more than merely a flag. I see the waving hands of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, garbed in everything from colonial attire … to the uniforms of the early 1940s … to the modern desert gear of our young defenders. In the back and forth of our star-spangled banner these soldiers wave a sweet yet simple goodbye, as if to say, “This one’s for you, America.  Use your freedom well.”

Let’s do exactly that as we remember and honor those who have fallen. 

Now, this year we designated Georgia a “Purple Heart State” and also declared that August 7 of every year will be “Purple Heart Day.” I know many recipients of this distinction are here today. We want to honor not only those who are active duty but rather each Georgian who has sacrificed for his country. At this time I would like for all Purple Heart recipients to stand and be recognized for your tremendous sacrifice.

Click here to read the governor's Memorial Day Proclamation.