Editor’s Note: Clifford E. Evans, the former president and CEO, and current board member, of Milwaukee-based Badger Magnetics Inc., served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1971. He made the following remarks at the recent Wisconsin Governor’s Prayer Breakfast event in Milwaukee. BizTimes Milwaukee publishes them as a tribute to all who have served to defend our nation, and especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
I encourage all of you, sometime soon, to take the Mitchell Boulevard/VA Center exit off of I-94, turn south, and instead of going to Miller Park, veer off to the right at the little sign that marks a back entrance to the VA Center.
You will immediately see the VA cemetery. It is a peaceful place where you can be easily overwhelmed by the many simple white headstones of those who served. Drive around a little and you will come upon a modest statue of President Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator. At the foot of the statue is the full text of the “Gettysburg Address.” Read it carefully and perhaps, with the background of the graveyard, you will be floored by the power of the words. I was so taken by the words that I could scarcely stand, even though I had heard them many times before.
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether this nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might LIVE.”
Think about it: “That this nation might LIVE.”
Lincoln attributed a LIFE to this nation, just as precious as any newborn babe. I suppose when you think of the 30 million-plus beating hearts of this country in 1863 and the 300 million-plus hearts today it is, figuratively, a living, breathing entity. One precious enough that soldiers would give up their lives so this country and its FREEDOM FOR ALL WOULD. NOT. DIE.
As Jesus said in John 13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.”
I think most veterans agree with me when I say that collectively, this country has paid a high price in the sacrifice of its soldiers for the freedom we enjoy today. Individually, however, I consider my sacrifice of serving and willing to give it all to be very small in exchange for the massive benefit of freedom.
To put it in business terms: The return on the investment for the individual veteran is huge.
“Some gave all, all gave some” is a tribute to all veterans, living and dead, who served. For you see, it matters not whether you were in the Battle of the Bulge, or the Battle of Inchon, or the Berlin Airlift, or the Tet Offensive (as I was), or the forests of Bosnia, or Desert Shield or the streets of Iraq. Perhaps you served behind the lines or thousands of miles from a war or even during the all too short periods of peace.
Anyone who served made a sacrifice so that this nation and freedom might live.
Thank you, veterans, for your service.