General Omar Bradley's Memorial Day Address

Revisit Gen. Omar Bradley's 1948 Memorial Day address at Long Meadow, Mass.

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- Posted on May 1, 2009

General Omar Bradley

…It is easy for us who are living to honor the sacrifices of those who are dead. For it helps us to assuage the guilt we should feel in their presence.  

Wars can be prevented just as surely as they are provoked, and therefore we who fail to prevent them share in guilt for the dead…For every man in whom war has inspired sacrifice, courage and love, there are many more whom it has degraded with brutality, callousness and greed.

Why is it men cannot live as bravely as they die?

While the American people have within themselves the moral strength, the power and wisdom to marshal their forces against aggression in whatever form it takes…we cannot feign innocence through indifference or neglect of struggles that bring on wars….Non-involvement in peace means certain involvement in war.

Either we shall employ our strength, power and conscience boldly and righteously in defense of human dignity and freedom, or we shall waste these reserves for peace and default to the forces that breed new wars.

(Each soldier) we bury is partly the victim of your folly and the folly of all peace-loving peoples who turn their backs on the ills of the world.

Secure in distant and peaceful towns…clinging to comforts, refusing risks, seeking refuge in words, we recanted power and conscience to side with those who sought peace at any price. Too late we discovered the price was too high; and to keep freedom we paid in the bodies of our young sons….

Now new weapons have made the risk of war a suicidal hazard….Modern war visits destruction on the victor and the vanquished alike. Our only complete assurance of surviving World War III is to halt it before it starts….It must never again be said of the American people: Once more we won a war; once more we lost a peace. If we do, we shall doom our children to a struggle that will take their lives….Freedom when threatened anywhere is at once threatened everywhere.

The American people must demonstrate conclusively to all other peoples of the world that democracy not only guarantees man's human freedom, but that it guarantees his economic dignity and progress as well. To practice freedom and make it work, we must cherish the individual, we must provide him the opportunities for reward, and impress upon him the responsibilities a free man bears to the society in which he lives.

...We have too many men of science; too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the sermon on the Mount.

Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. This is our twentieth century's claim to distinction and to progress!

Democracy can withstand ideological attacks if democracy will provide earnestly and liberally for the welfare of its people. To defend democracy against attack, men must value freedom. To value freedom, they must benefit by it in happy and more secure lives for their wives and children.

Good citizenship is the start of a working democracy. And good citizenship begins at home…from such simple beginnings do we create better communities, better states, a better nation and eventually, we hope, a better world.

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General Omar Nelson Bradley's distinguished career included serving as a 5-star general, Army Chief of Staff and two-time Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was known as "The Soldier's General" for his compassion and caring of his men.

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