TULSA, Oklahoma (May 28, 2018) – The Tulsa Memorial Park Cemetery held its annual Memorial Day ceremony on Monday with Kevin Stitt, republican candidate for governor and founder and CEO of Gateway Mortgage, as the keynote speaker. In his speech, Stitt reflected on words delivered by United States Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Holmes, Jr. – himself a veteran of the Civil War –on Memorial Day in 1884, and Stitt paid tribute to his dad, grandfather, and family members who served in our nation’s military.
The text of the speech is as follows:
(click here for video)
It is a testament to the American spirit, and entirely appropriate, that our nation set Memorial Day weeks after winter has ended and when spring is in full bloom – after death has passed, and new life is emerging.
I would like to start by reading a quote that many here may find familiar.
These words are from United States Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Holmes, Jr. – himself a veteran of the Civil War – from a speech on Memorial Day in 1884, where he said:
“But grief is not the end of all. I see beyond the forest, the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death – of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the [awesome] orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”
What powerful words to reflect upon today – “grief is not the end of all… Our dead brothers still live for us.” They live on in our memories and in our hearts.
That’s why we are here – to remember and honor the lives of those who served and sacrificed – many who made the ultimate sacrifice. But, they live on in another sense.
As Justice Holmes said, they “still live for us,” because through selfless devotion to country, they secured our freedom and they inspire us to do the same – to cherish the freedom we enjoy and to sacrifice for freedom to continue.
It was Jesus who taught us, “For greater love has no man than this, that he down his life for his friend.” There is a reason our nation’s military men & women, and their families, often find themselves drawn to this statement from Jesus Christ. Because they know better than most – that death is not the end. Sacrifice is gift so that others might live.
On Memorial Day, we are not spared grief. Grief is the evidence of unwavering love and sacrifice demonstrated by our nation’s heroic men and women. We are not spared grief but we are promised life on the other side. Just as the changing of winter into spring, grief gives way to joy – death loses its sting. And our brothers “still live for us.”
Today, we reflect on the lives of those who have been laid to rest here, in the Memorial Park Cemetery of Tulsa, and those at Arlington National Cemetery, and those who never made it home.
The men and women who died in battle – or have passed since their time in service –
have each been integral in providing us the freedoms we know today – the freedom to vote for our nation’s leaders, the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom of life. They still live for us.
Today we honor the dedication, integrity, and passion that led each of your family members to give their lives so that we may know and partake in these freedoms on a daily basis.
Memorial Day is also a day where we as a nation recommit ourselves to those who have served. Our governments, both in D.C. and here at home in Oklahoma, have a duty to care for our veterans and the loved ones of those who have been wounded or fallen in battle.
But as Americans, we should not expect the government to be the sole extension of our indebtedness.
As citizens, we have a responsibility to show our gratitude as well. In our education system, we must continue to teach our children about our history, the wars we fought, the cost of freedom, and the value of commitment and fortitude on display by our nation’s military.
In our workforce, we must stand in the gap and extend resources to ensure our veterans are gainfully employed after their time in service. We must give equal opportunities to spouses, who put careers on hold during times of service, and now must navigate a way to provide for their loved ones.
At Gateway, we take this responsibility seriously, where we employ veterans across the nation. We partner with states to offer special loans to veterans so they can have an affordable path to home ownership for their families. And we give to Folds of Honor for every new home loan we originate so that loved ones of fallen or disabled servicemembers can pursue higher education without the financial burden.
In our neighborhoods, in our churches, and in our communities, may we also extend our hearts and our hands, giving our time to help those who bear additional responsibilities from a loved one serving overseas or to those who grieve a fallen soldier. May we sit and listen to their stories of service to our nation – their stories of triumph, of comradery, of sacred devotion.
It is in this we find the answer to what we can do for our country in return.
Today, we celebrate the lives lived and we remember the sacrifices made so that we can stand here and live out our nation’s motto “In God we trust” – for we are the land of the free; home of the brave.
In closing, I want to take a brief moment to recognize my father who is here today, John Stitt, who served in the Army from 1964 to 1967. My granddad Marvin Stitt, who has past, also served in World War II. My granddad’s story exemplifies the words of Justice Holmes.
When my granddad received word that his brother-in-law, Daniel Debutts, was killed while flying a mission over Germany, my granddad immediately enlisted. He said goodbye to my grandmother, who he had just married, and honorably served his country overseas until near the end of the war.
I am grateful for their legacy of sacrifice and service. Thank you for allowing me to join you today.