A warm welcome to our clergy, distinguished colleagues, police and firemen, community organizations and, most especially, the children to the 94th annual Bronxville parade and commemoration.
Today I have the distinct pleasure to honor, on behalf of all of you, a lifelong Bronxvillian, Robert Riggs, as our grand marshal.
After graduation from the Bronxville schools, Bob went off to Amherst College and, there, joined the ROTC and, upon graduation, was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.
Bob was trained as a pilot on the B-47 Stratojet, a six-engine flying fortress that was part of our Cold War fleet.
Although Bob was not in war combat, he had harrowing experiences.
He dealt with the fact that his plane had enough fuel to get to Russia but not back. Mid-air refueling at 5,000 feet in a near stall will test the character of any man and, on duty one day, Bob was sitting in his plane on alert for what was a Cold War “real thing” when it was only halted by a radio cancellation from President Eisenhower himself.
Bob served both on active duty and in the reserves and retired with the rank of captain.
His superior record of service to our nation has only been eclipsed by his record of involvement in the village. To name just a few of his many volunteer pursuits, Bob has been village counsel, village trustee, chairman of the Sarah Lawrence College board, co-founder of our Bronxville Historical Conservancy and, at this moment, is co-chair of our Eastchester Town 350th anniversary celebration.
Bob raised his two children in the village and still lives here on Crows Nest with his wife Wendy and he remembers marching in this very parade as an eight-year-old scout.
Bob we honor you for your service to our nation and our village.
Some ask—why have grand marshals and continue to celebrate Memorial Day when frankly military service seems so removed from our daily lives?
I believe we need Memorial Day as a day to bear witness to heroes, and it is not just children who need heroes, and there is no better place to find true heroes than in our country’s military, past and present. Serving our country is the noblest of professions, and love of country and devotion to freedom must never become old fashion or go out of style.
It is said that a hero is someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom and is willing to sacrifice his own dreams for the hopes of a nation.
President Kennedy said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors.”
The legacy of a hero is the inheritance of a great example and our small village has more than its share of heroes—Bronxvillians experienced the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Iwo Jima and the taking of Normandy beach. We have fathers who served in Vietnam with sons who then served in Iraq. And thanks to the heroism exhibited by men and women of this caliber, the rest of us should be quite aware that to be born free is an accident, to live free is a privilege and to die free is a responsibility.
Today is a day to take time to say a prayer and a word of gratitude for the fallen, but also to reflect upon virtue, what it means to have character, dignity, to be honorable, brave, have integrity and courage. Wars have shown us that courage is contagious.
Let Memorial Day be a rebirth of our commitment to live a life of character with passion and joy and emulate true heroes—people of quality and substance—as we celebrate life and liberty.
Sadly, I want to add that, in just this past year, we lost three of our heroes, World War II veterans and past parade grand marshals.
Please offer a moment of silence to honor three fine men. Gordon Markle, Dr. Martin Stein and Arthur Miller.
Thank you and happy Memorial Day.