Gov. Asa Hutchinson delivered remarks today at a Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock. The following is a transcript of his remarks:
I want to express my thanks to Major General Penn for his leadership; to Colonel Todd and his great work with our veterans administration, and for making sure that we appropriately honor our veterans each year and every day in the way that we serve our veterans; to Commissioner Tommy Land, thank you for being here; the representatives of the Arkansas veteran service organizations for your continued leadership each year; to the Gold Star families that are here, representing a family that has given the sacrifice, we are grateful for you being here, but also for what you mean to our nation; and then to Congressman French Hill, who is here faithfully every year, rain or shine, mask or no mask, he is here to support our veterans.
We are gathering today in a difficult and confusing time in world history. We are gathering, of course, to remember those who fought and died to preserve freedom and to protect our homeland. In many states, you will not see this observance. In many states they have canceled their memorial services. And I am glad that in Arkansas that we have decided to go ahead and to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice today, even though it is under unusual circumstances and protocols. It is important that we gather today to honor their sacrifice to our country, because without their sacrifice, our country would be totally different today, and the world would be change and not for the better. The world would be in a darker place, with the light of freedom dimmed in Europe, Asia, and many places around the globe; but throughout our history, American men and women of valor have taken up arms and pushed back against the night. Thousands of those brave warriors lie at rest here at the State Veterans Cemetery. Today, we remember them and honor them for their service and sacrifice.
It is reported that during the dark days of the American Revolution, when literally all was at stake, many had gone back home, had deserted, some had died from illness, and from their war wounds, it was a difficult and dark time in the American Revolution. And it was said that during one night, General George Washington gave the command ‘tonight put none but Americans on guard.’ And we have thought about, for centuries actually, what did he mean by that phrase, because at that time, many in the service of our newfound country, were not born in America. So, it’s not talking about their nationalism. It was talking about their spirit. He wanted those Americans on guard who understood freedom and the depths of their soul, and understood sacrifice that was necessary to preserve and to win that freedom. It was those soldiers that understood that freedom that we remember today that have paid that sacrifice. In other words, those during the American Revolution, and since then, that have given of themselves have reflected the American spirit, and the American character, and the American spirit and character does make a difference for the world.
Today, we face another enemy, it is a deadly virus – cannot be seen. It silently attacks and kills. Almost 100,000 Americans have lost their lives within 100 days as a result of this new enemy. How do we respond? Well, we respond the same as Americans have responded for more than 200 years: with grit by calling upon the strength of the American character, and the resilience of the American spirit.
There’s a historic picture that I found over the weekend. It’s a historic picture that’s circulating in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a picture of Grant Stadium, the football stadium in 1918. Now think about 1918 for a moment. We were right at the conclusion of World War I. We had lost so many Americans during that global war. But we were also hit by a global pandemic that ultimately killed 600,000 Americans. It was a different day in time. But the picture of Grant Stadium, where Georgia Tech plays, they had a picture one of the football arena, then they had a picture of the stands. And in the stands, you saw all of the fans, wearing face coverings and appropriately, socially distancing six feet apart. That was over 100 years ago. They reflected the spirit of our great country, war in Europe and a deadly virus at home, yet life went on with common sense protections. And if they can go to a football game, surely, we can come here today in these unusual circumstances to honor those that have given the ultimate sacrifice.
Let me assure you today that we will win this fight as well. I am more confident than ever because of the ingenuity and hard work of our medical professionals, and because the American spirit, which replaces fear with action, common sense and compassion. So today, let’s remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Let’s continue to enjoy our freedom. And let’s work to protect those who are neighbors, fellow Americans, and friends. God bless the United States of America.