Here is a speech Alex Walsh delivered on the steps of Newport City Hall on Armistice Day, November 11, 1963. Mr. Walsh served our country and indeed the world in World War II.
Today is a day of the dead; and a day of the living.
It is a day somber with mourning; and a day bright with expectant hopes.
It is a day for looking sadly back into past sorrows, and a day for peering courageously ahead to future challenges. It is day consecrated to the memory of those brave men who perished in war that this country might survive, and it is a day which honors those men, equally brave, who, under a merciful providence, returned from war that this country might prosper.
Of the dead warriors I will, I can, say little. Think of them in their thousands. Their bodies lie buried on the slopes of the mist-shrouded mountains of Korea, under the waving palms of Iwo Jima, in the dank jungles of Guadalcanal, beneath the hot sands of North Africa, and the fruitful orchards of Normandy. Or, to go back to an earlier war, their graves stretch endlessly across the meadows of Chateau-Thierry, along the banks of the Somme and of the Narne, and beneath the whispering trees of the Argonne forest. Other thousands there are who have no graves, for they drowned under the heaving waters of all the world’s oceans or they fells in fiery wreckage from the skies, leaving not a trace of their earthly passage.
My fellow citizens, we seldom recall that our own Newport once groaned under the heel of an invaders boot. The trees of this island were cut down, its flocks and herds ravished, its people troubled and molested, for two long years by an English garrison. Why, the house which the British general occupied as his headquarters still stands on the Northeast corner of Pelham and Spring streets! But that was nearly two-hundred years ago, during the revolutionary war, before our nation was born. Since that time, never has an invading army ringed our city, or troops trampled through our streets, or plundered our homes. We, all the rest of this country, have been protected because, times beyond numbering, brave men have stood on distant battlefields and stopped with their living flesh the bullets of our enemies.
Compared with their massive sacrifice, how puny are our words of eulogy, how feeble our expressions of gratitude! In the final analysis there are but two services we can render to the fallen heroes of our country: we can commend them to a mercy beyond this world, trusting that a hand infinitely more generous, incomparably more powerful than ours will suitably recompense them for the deaths they died that this nation might live; and we can do all in our power to see to it that those men did not die in vain; that the flag they struggled and bled for will continue to wave over a land of life, of liberty, of the pursuit of happiness.
Besides commemorating these soldiers who are now gloriously at rest, November the 11th honors also those veterans who are still engaged in the struggle of life. We survived war, we married, we founded families, our sons and daughters, in many cases our grandchildren, surround us now. We were not faded to die for our country. Ours, from many angles is a heavier responsibility — to live for our country, to be good citizens, to do what we can to solve the problems that hinder its progress and hamper its growth.
To face confidently the problems of the future, we may find inspiration and courage from the historical fact that we stand here in Newport on one of the thresholds of liberty. For Newport was the first seat of government for the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and from a little room in the old courthouse on Washington Square, emanated the first laws and proclamations of our Constitutional rights; and from this little state – Rhode Island – standing as it did as one of the 13 original states, went many men and women into the vast sections of this verdant country, to settle – to build a democracy – a free nation so large, so rich, so powerful that the likes of it has not been seen since the Roman Empire.
As we stand here today and listen to the roll call of our honored dead, and gaze at the names of our loved ones inscribed on our war monuments, we know that they, too, went forth from this cradle of liberty to fight and to die for the traditions and principles of a free, democratic America.
The dead have done their task, they have paid the last full measure of devotion, they are at rest.
For us, the living, the task is not yet finished; the struggle continues, we still must strive, and labor, and toil to make our country a land of life, of liberty, of happiness for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children.
My fellow citizens, twice within the memory of living men we mounted a military machine which astounded the world — we blanketed the sea with ships, and darkened the sky with the multitude of our planes, and caused the very earth to tremble under the weight of our armaments. May our beloved country that displayed such unquestioned superiority in the art of war continue to show an equal capacity in the skills of peace.
I thank you.
November 11, 1963