These remarks were delivered by Lieutenant Colonel USA (Ret) Mark Schoenrock at Steele City, Nebraska and Joy Creek, Kansas on Sunday May 27, 2018. The remarks have been edited for space.
“Good afternoon. It is wonderful to be home in Nebraska on this glorious Memorial Day weekend 2018. I would like to say thank you to my fellow veterans here with me today, to the VFW and American Legion, to Kenneth Dodge, Jefferson County Veterans Service Officer, Lyle Katz and all who make this ceremony here possible, and to each of you for coming out today. It is important that we gather together on this special day.
Today we are going to take a little journey, you and I, back nearly 100 years to the fall of 1918. The place is Brest, France, the date is October 12, 1918, less than a month until the end of the “war to end all wars.” For a young soldier from Fairbury, on this day, in this place, far from his Nebraska home, his mortal journey on earth will come to an end. It will be the last day of his young life. I did not know James Deeter or his family.  I have found very little on him in the issues of the Fairbury newspaper from that time.  What I do know about him is that he answered his country’s call to duty and gave his life in that duty. James is buried in a beautiful country cemetery in the gentle rolling hills of Jefferson County south of Thompson, one mile from our farm, where James and I grew to manhood, separated only by time.  Think back with me for a moment and imagine what the day was like that he died in far away France, how was he returned home, what was the day like the day that his body was laid in his native land of Nebraska? The people that were there that day, grieving family and friends, have now all gone the way of the earth, as we too one day will also do when our time on earth is concluded.  I visit his grave throughout the year, to remember him and his service.
James is one of countless millions of Americans who have answered our country’s call to duty in each of their generations.  Today, we honor him and all of those brave Americans who gave their lives in defense of our liberty and our way of life.  In my years of service in the Pentagon, whenever I had a rare spare moment, one of my favorite activities was to walk across the street to Arlington National Cemetery.  The solemnness of that most sacred ground forever stays with me.  There by the tomb of John F. Kennedy, are inscribed the famous quotes of his life, one of which is: “In the long history of the world, few generations have had the privilege of defending freedom in her hour of peril: I do not shrink from this challenge, I welcome it.”  Thus it was with James Deeter and all of those who came before and after his time on the earth. 
At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams said the following: "I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States." And so it has been down through the succeeding generations to the present and will continue to ever be so.
In his essay "The Contest In America," 19th-century libertarian philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote, "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
On Memorial Day of 1982, President Ronald Reagan offered these words in honor of Patriots interred at Arlington National Cemetery: "I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them. Yet, we must try to honor them not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice."
Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we -- in a less final, less heroic way -- be willing to give of ourselves.
Fifty years ago this month, I had the opportunity to meet Robert F. Kennedy as he was campaigning for President in Beatrice.  That meeting that day placed me on the path towards becoming an officer of the United States Army and a career which spanned over forty years serving our nation as a member of the Army team.  It is not enough, though just to clearly see these principles.  The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task.  Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “As life is action and passion, it is required of all of us that we should share the passion and action of our time, at peril of being judged not to have lived.”  Each of us will ultimately be judged, and will ultimately judge ourselves, on the extent to which we personally contributed to the life of this nation and to world society that those who gave their lives envisioned.  They are gone, but we must each do our part in our time here to make our families, our communities, state and nation better, and by so doing, we truly honor those who we remember this Memorial Day. 
When our brief mortal journey is complete, let each of us be remembered simply as men and women in service of the American dream.
Like many of you here today, there is constant pain which never forgets my comrades who gave their lives in the defense of our freedom and our way of life.  Robert Kennedy’s favorite poet was Aeschylus who wrote the following: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
Each generation has faced its challenges.  Ours is no different. Those challenges will yield only to the moral energy and belief of a free people.
As we leave here today, let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.  Thank you, and may God continue to bless these United States of America.