VA Portland Health Care System
Memorial Day 2020 Director's Message
Please click this image to view the VAPORHCS Director's Memorial Day 2020 Message (5 minutes).
Hello, I’m Darwin Goodspeed, the Director of VA Portland Health Care System.
It’s an honor to join you in recognition of Memorial Day 2020, as we pay tribute to our heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms, and all those who have served our nation.
This is an exceptional year as it marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, while at the same time much of the world’s population remains in semi-physical isolation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Americans, we’ve commemorated Memorial Day since 1868. For more than 150 years, we’ve set aside this day to remember our military service members in death and celebrate their lives, but, with the passage of time, and our situation we find ourselves this year, it is easy to lose sight of the true meaning behind the day.
Memorial Day is considered by many as the unofficial start of summer and typically is filled with beaches, barbeques, and bargains at your favorite retail store. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented us all challenges and many changes in our daily lives. Despite these deviations, our deep sense of patriotism and civic pride ensures we continue to honor the fallen in unique ways. This may include video messages like this one or, perhaps for you, with the simple act of displaying our nations flag, with silent prayers, and grateful thoughts for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for a brighter future for our nation; grand parades, speeches, gatherings at our hallowed grounds to honor our nation’s heroes will need to wait for another day.
Tens of millions of American patriots have served our country and one million perished defeating tyranny and aggression that threatened the liberty and democracy of our nation. Courageous Americans of every generation have stepped forward to fight for freedom when called upon.
On this day of reflection, I’d like to honor the accomplishments, and personal resilience of our oldest living generation of Veterans – World War II; sixteen million Americans served; 300,000 made the ultimate sacrifice to free Europe, Africa, and the Pacific from tyranny. Only an estimated 340,000 or so survive today. Lasting from 1939 to 1945 and responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, and the deaths of somewhere between 40 and 50 million people, most World War II Veterans are now at least 95-100 years old (or older). Soon, we’ll have no living witnesses to the terrifying and triumphant events of a war that changed the world forever. The inevitability that World War II Veterans will be passing away in the next few years makes honoring them today and preserving their memory an urgent task.
As our World War II Veterans inspired us thru their actions three quarters of a century ago, they inspire us today as resolute survivors of COVID-19; like Oregon’s own 95-year-old Bill Kelly and Bill Lapschies, who recently celebrated his 104th birthday; they both recovered from COVID-19 earlier this spring and inspire all who are privileged to meet them.
All in all, it’s a hard truth to face that some of our most beloved Veterans from World War II are passing away in huge numbers due to old age. They’ve lived long, incredible lives and served their country well and we’re lucky if we’ve had the opportunity to have any meaningful time spent with them.
We can learn so much from their stories and they continue to inspire the next generation of heroes. It’s in everyone’s best interest to deeply understand what led to World War II, or any war for that matter, so that we can prevent it from happening ever again. We need to cherish the World War II Veterans that are still with us while we can.
On this day of remembrance, we honor great deeds, achievements, and personal fortitude, and we pay tribute to the constancy and commitment, faith and fidelity to those who served and sacrificed.
May God bless those we honor today, those currently serving America in uniform, and all our nation’s Veterans.