Grand Island Memorial Day 2007

Supervisor Peter A. McMahon gave the following introduction to Grand Island Memorial Day 2007's guest speaker Col. David J. Conboy:
   Colonel David J. Conboy is the Commander of 7th Brigade, 98th Division, headquartered in Rochester, NY. Colonel Conboy graduated from Grand Island High School in 1980 and earned his undergraduate engineering degree from the University of Notre Dame. He also holds a Master's Degree in Engineering from the University at Buffalo, and a Master's Degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S Army War College. His civilian position is Chief of the Technical Services Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District.
   Colonel Conboy deployed to Iraq as a civilian with the Army Corps of Engineers from February to June 2004 where he oversaw the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Iraqi Oil Infrastructure throughout Southern Iraq. He returned to Iraq from September 2004 to August 2005 as a military officer, serving as the advisor to the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces during the development of the new Iraqi Armed Forces.
   Colonel Conboy lives on Grand Island with his wife Karen, and son David, a 7th grade honor student at St. Stephen School. He is also the proud stepfather of Sarah McMahon, a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army who recently completed a year long tour in Iraq.

Col. David J. Conboy's address
Thank you Supervisor McMahon. I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to say a few words today as we commemorate Memorial Day on Grand Island. I am honored, because it is a privilege to be here with my fellow veterans, friends from Grand Island, members of our Town Board, and other Dignitaries, all of whom understand the importance of this day. And I am humbled to be here, in the presence of the Families of our fallen Heroes who, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, “have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom”. While I am very thankful for the invitation to share some thoughts with you, I am also certainly mindful that my simple words cannot help but fall far short in describing the extraordinary heroism of the members of our Armed Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their Country, and the immeasurable contributions of their Families to the freedom and liberty we all enjoy.
   Memorial Day, first called Decoration Day, began 139 years ago in 1868 to remember those who died in the Civil War. Since World War I, Memorial Day has become a time to honor all those who died in service to our Nation throughout our history. And there is no more appropriate place for us to have this ceremony in recognition of Memorial Day than here at DeGlopper Park. A park that commemorates one of our own, Private Charles DeGlopper who posthumously received the Medal of Honor, our Nation’s highest military honor, for his exceptional valor, far above and beyond the call of duty, in combat in France in June 1944 during World War II. Private DeGlopper and our other fallen heroes from World War II didn't have the opportunity to grow up and be honored as members of the greatest generation as many of our parents and grandparents did, having given the full measure of devotion to their country on battlefields in far away lands. But in the way they lived, and perhaps more importantly in the manner in which they died, each provided a visible and enduring example of patriotism, devotion to duty, and selfless service to all of us.
   And on different continents, in different wars, other Islanders followed this example of patriotism and service, and in doing so compel us to pause today and remember them. During the Vietnam War, Corporal Robert Luther was killed in action on Mother’s Day in 1970. And Lieutenant Martin Prast’s death in January 1998 was the direct result of combat injuries sustained years earlier in Vietnam. While Marty Prast lived to serve with distinction as Grand Island Supervisor, we will never know the full measure of his potential, or the potential of Robert Luther and our other fallen comrades from the Vietnam War. But we do know that they are Heroes and that our lives are enriched by their selflessness and by the example they set for all of us. Most recently, our Nation has been involved in the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan and our generation has suffered the loss of over three thousand members of our Armed Forces, men and women who volunteered to serve in an effort to secure the blessings of our liberty and to help others in long troubled lands advance towards freedom and democracy.
   We remember Private First Class Benjamin Schuster, a graduate of Grand Island High school who was killed in action in Ramadi, Iraq in February, 2006. And 61 years after Private DeGlopper’s heroic actions in France, another Soldier from Grand Island distinguished himself with his valor on the field of battle on a June day in a far off land. LTC Terrence Crowe, a Father, a Son, a Brother, an Uncle, and a good friend to many of us, was killed in combat on June 7th, 2005, in Tal Afar, Iraq. Terry was the leader of a Battalion Advisory Support Team, whose job was to train and fight with a fledgling Iraqi Army unit in one of the most dangerous parts of Iraq. Like all of you, I was filled with grief and sadness when I learned of Terry’s death, but I was not surprised to hear that Terry was leading from the front when he was fatally wounded. Terry would not ask his Soldiers, whether American or Iraqi Soldiers, to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself. After all, Terry was an infantry officer, and the motto of the infantry is, “Follow me and do as I do”.
   On the day I learned of Terry’s death, I recall coming across a sign at Phoenix Base in Baghdad with a quotation from a French General, Ferdinand Foch, who was the Hero at the Battle of the Marne, stopping the German advance and turning the tide in World War I. The quote said, “Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I am attacking!”
   And as I read the sign, I smiled because that quote accurately summarized to me Terry’s indomitable spirit. The spirit and audacity that inspires Soldiers and carries the day when logic and caution might well counsel otherwise. After successful completion of the mission that Terry was a part of, the Mayor of Tal Afar recognized the importance of the operation and the contribution of our Soldiers by describing Terry and his comrades in arms as, “Courageous men and women who were our avenging angels sent by God himself to fight the evil of terrorism." And so we gather today to mourn and remember all our Nation’s heroes. These brave and selfless souls who gave their lives in combat in service to our Country and the defense of freedom. We mourn them because they lost their physical lives, defined by years, and also because they lost their future lives filled with endless possibilities. Possibilities of Families, vocations and continued contributions to their Nation and their communities. And while our pain associated with their loss is enduring and sometimes overpowering, there is indeed a joy and a thankfulness that rises through our grief to provide us comfort.
   We feel joy and are thankful to God that such great men and women lived, and as we sing in America the Beautiful, “more than self their Country loved and mercy more than life”. We are also enormously blessed, each one of us, for our great good fortune to have lived amongst these Heroes, if even only for a time that was much too brief.
   So, despite our loss, and perhaps even in some ways because of it, we have indeed been given so much. And as Saint Luke tells us in the New Testament, “To whom much is given, much is expected”. So each one of us must respond to these expectations and fulfill our solemn and sacred responsibilities. I ask that you join me as we rededicate ourselves in service to our Nation and our communities, each in our own way, and in remembrance of our fallen Soldiers. Certainly our presence here today is important and meaningful, and we can each find other ways to express our patriotism and gratitude, such as visiting the graves of our fallen Heroes, proudly displaying the flag at our homes, or standing each time the flag passes by us as we enjoy our Independence Day Parade along Grand Island Boulevard in a little over one month. And as a Nation at War, we must continually remember in our thoughts and prayers our service men and women in harm’s way at freedom’s outposts around the world, and also remember their families and the challenges they face on the homefront.
   These small, but meaningful actions are critical not only because they are the right thing to do, but perhaps more importantly because they will serve as an example to others and inspire them to their own acts of Service and Patriotism. Service and Patriotism. In reality our Country asks nothing more from us, and I can say with confidence and certainty that our fallen comrades would expect and accept nothing less from us. On this Memorial Day, and on every day, may we honor our call to Service and Patriotism, and may God Bless our fallen Heroes, their Families, and the United States of America.