GENERAL CASEY: There are lots of old friends, constituents, and folks from my teenage days here. I know they are very surprised to see me standing so close to the Chief of Police. I think this is the first time I could do this without my heart pounding.

Anyway, Ed [Covell from the American Legion], thanks for putting all of this together and thanks for what the American Legion does to take care of our Veterans and our Soldiers and Families. We really appreciate it.

Jack [Conway] -- great introduction -- great BC High friend -- thanks very much for putting all this together.

Governor Dukakis, great to see you, Sir. ItAca,!a,,cs been a couple of years since we ran into each other in Fenway Park. ItAca,!a,,cs nice to have you with us.

Brigadier General Tom Sellers is here representing the National Guard of Massachusetts. I can tell you that thereAca,!a,,cs been alot of change in our Army over the last decade since September 11th, but nowhere is that change more pronounced than in our Guard and Reserve forces. Tom represents the great Soldiers from the State of Massachusetts here -- so thanks very much.

Although they have already been recognized, I would like to recognize Joe and Karen Kelley [Gold Star parents of SGT Michael J. Kelley] and Paul Monti [father of MoH receipient Jared Monti]. Thank you for your sacrifice and God bless you all.

Now, as has been said, we really are from Scituate [Massachusetts]. It took me awhile to come to that. When people--up until a few years ago--would ask me where you are from, IAca,!a,,cd say, Aca,!A"Well, you know IAca,!a,,cm an Army brat. My mother is from West Roxbury. My father is from Austin. I have lived all over the world.Aca,!A?

And then, with my momAca,!a,,cs 75th birthday--and I wonAca,!a,,ct tell you how many years ago that was--we were at the house on Cherry Lane and my grandchildren were running around, and we realized that this was the sixth generation of our family that had been in that house. And, that day, I said to myself, Aca,!A"if thatAca,!a,,cs not home, I donAca,!a,,ct know what is.Aca,!A? So, ever since, I have been saying that IAca,!a,,cm from Scituate.

And, Ed -- although I appreciate the enthusiasm you put into getting this together, I must tell you that I have taken an awful lot of grief from my family about that article in the Scituate Mariner saying it was Aca,!A"the best thing since John Adams.Aca,!A?

(Laughter)-- They know me, Ed. Although, when Peter [Mehegan] read that John Adams was obnoxious and unpopular -- I had another thought about it. (Laughter)
Although Peter just read this [the Declaration of Independence], I think itAca,!a,,cs important to reflect on the second and third sentences in the Declaration. Those sentences bear repeating. Aca,!A"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...Aca,!A?

Despite these brash -- and at the time revolutionary words -- words that inspired, as you heard, 274 Scituate patriots to join the fight for independence -- our fledgling nationAca,!a,,cs chances of actually achieving our independence in 1776 were quite slim. In June, when George Washington took command of the Continental Army in Boston, his troops numbered around 16,000, with only about 14,000 of them actually fit for duty. His challenges are chronicled brilliantly in David McCulloughAca,!a,,cs book, 1776. As the summer faded to fall and as temperatures dropped, WashingtonAca,!a,,cs Army suffered both consistent defeat and inconsistent pay.

Indiscipline ruled and dessertions piled up. Washington became so dispirited that, at one point, in a private letter to a friend, he lamented, Aca,!A"Could I have foreseen what I have and am like to experience, no consideration on Earth could have induced me to accept this command.Aca,!A?

Indeed, in 1776, things looked bleak for America. Although Washington had an Army that increased to 20,000--at least on paper--by November of that year, after a series of defeats at Brooklyn, Kips Bay, White Plains and Fort Washington, only about 3,500 Soldiers remained. WashingtonAca,!a,,cs Army and America were broke, broken and dispirited. And, we -- as a country -- were barely hanging on.

To make matters worse, the bulk of WashingtonAca,!a,,cs enlisted troops had contracts that were due to expire on New YearAca,!a,,cs Day. If their fortunes didnAca,!a,,ct change quickly, then, soon, he thought weAca,!a,,cd have no Army at all.

Washington realized that his Army and our budding Nation had reached the breaking point, but he knew we were not broken. Washington realized that a victory -- even a small tactical victory -- could turn the tide for his Army and the Nation and give them a second wind to make it through the winter. What followed was one of AmericaAca,!a,,cs most defining moments.

On Christmas night, at midnight, George Washington led his band of frozen, ragged colonists across the Delaware [River] in the midst of a storm in a surprise attack on the Hessian forces it Trenton. It wasnAca,!a,,ct the small tactical victory that Washington sought -- it was a rout of strategic significance. In a matter of days the colonies were buzzing with the story of WashingtonAca,!a,,cs daring crossing and the battle that resulted in the capture of 900 prisoners.

The victory reinvigorated the American people and restored the faith of the Army in themselves. And, while there would be many dark days ahead in the revolution, it marked the first time that this Nation -- in the face of overwhelming odds -- had risen to the occasion. It set a precedent that every generation of Americans has followed since. Through the Civil War, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and today, in Iraq and Afghanistan: in the face of adversity, we will fight for the liberties our forefathers inscribed 234 years ago. And, regardless of the odds, we will stand against tyranny. We will protect the less fortunate. And, we will champion freedom.

Throughout our history, this Nation has been made great and our freedoms and the freedoms of others have been bought with the sacrifice and selfless service of the men and women of their armed forces Aca,!"ordinary people inspired to do extraordinary things for this country. Many of them have come from right here in Scituate.

So, as we celebrate our NationAca,!a,,cs 234 birthday, and as we remember the values and ideals enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, let us also remember from the very beginning our freedoms have not been free.

IAca,!a,,cd like to close with a poem that makes this point. ItAca,!a,,cs a poem by Father Dennis OAca,!a,,cBrien, who was a sergeant in World War II before entering the seminary. ItAca,!a,,cs called, ItAca,!a,,cs The Soldier.

Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs the Soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
ItAca,!a,,cs the Soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer, that has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Solider who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag, and whose coffin is draped with the flag, who gives the protestor the right to burn the flag.Aca,!A?

So, as we gather here today and in far away places like Iraq, Afghanistan and in more than 80 other countries around the world, more than 300,000 American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen still stand for those same American values first penned in our Declaration of Independence.

They are living symbols of the greatness of America and the goodness of the American people.

And so I would ask that you remember them and their families today and all our Veterans. Let us be thankful that we live in a Nation in which we continue to have generation-after-generation of Americans who believe so strongly in our NationAca,!a,,cs core values and ideals that they are willing to sacrifice for them.

Throughout our history over one million men and women have given their lives for this country. ItAca,!a,,cs because of these heroes -- heroes like Sergeant Michael Kelley, Sergeant First Class Jared Monti, and Major General George Casey ... itAca,!a,,cs because they have been willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of America and the American people that we have been able to enjoy 234 years of freedom. They have made this country what it is today -- the greatest Nation on Earth.

Thank you all very much. It has been a real privilege for me to come back here. Judy [Mulcahy], thank you for inviting me. The cupcakes were delicious.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16