I was given a most amazing opportunity last month and the timing of the opportunity could not have been more perfect! I was offered the chance to give the keynote address at the Peoria County Memorial Day Observance on Monday, May 30th. I jumped at the opportunity!
I don’t think it necessary to repeat the speech here in this forum. The things I wanted to say were included in the speech itself. If I’ve managed the upload correctly, a scan of my annotated speaking notes are here in this post, so you can read them at your leisure. At least two videos of the observance exist, one is available through Facebook. The other, even split into two files, was too large for me to upload to WordPress as it was. If I can figure out a way to upload it, I will do so. For now, I’ve included in the post a few of the photos from the day.
As I prepared to write the speech, I studied material from the great speeches of the past. It was easy to settle on an outline similar to the one Thucydides attributed to Pericles of Athens after the first year of the Peloponnesian War. The Periclean outline seemed to be prevalent for memorial speeches; the Gettysburg Address is probably the most concise example; President Reagan utilized that format as well at his address at the Fortieth Anniversary of D-day. Carol Van Winkle, the event organizer, recommended I make the address personal. I did so, discussing four of my fallen comrades, and then I explained what I believed their sacrifice meant. I received very positive remarks at the conclusion of the speech.
Here is a link to a photo taken by Andy Abeyta of the Peoria Journal-Star newspaper appears here. I really like the way he captured the World War I and World War II memorials in full, with the speaker a diminutive figure below them. This was the photo featured on the front page of the newspaper on May 31st.
Here is a link to another photo taken by Shane Gustafson and his cameraman, both of WMBD-TV.
Here is a link to the post I wrote for my LinkedIn profile.
Additionally, here is a link to Daniel Patriquin’s Facebook post containing Daniel Patriquin’s video of the speech.
While giving the keynote address was a very great honor; the presence of Gary, Connie, Daniel, and Melanie Patriquin made the special honor priceless. Gary and Connie are the parents of Travis Patriquin, one of my fallen friends; Daniel is Travis’ brother. While we had all corresponded since 2006, it was my first time meeting them.
What an unbelievable blessing it was to be able to perform, as my very last act in uniform, a tribute to my friends, to my heroes.
Thanks to everyone who helped me prepare the speech, thanks to Carol Van Winkle for inviting me to speak, thanks to everyone who attended, thanks to those who recorded the event (especially Tim and Christina). Thanks to those who have served and continue to serve. Grateful, humble thanks to the families of our fallen heroes. And finally, eternal thanks to my friends David Brodeur, Troy Gilbert, Jason West, and Travis Patriquin; and to all others who gave their last full measure of devotion to this country that I love. I owe you a debt I cannot repay.
(Thanks to Sue O. for the link to Troy Gilbert’s story on Fox News!)
Invaluable help in preparing for the speech: The Art of Public Speaking from The Great Courses; The Elements of Great Public Speaking by J. Lyman MacInnis; Veterans of Foreign Wars magazine, May 2016; Air Force Times, 9 May 2011; the Major David Brodeur Memorial Foundation; A Soldier’s Dream: Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq by William Doyle; personal interviews and correspondence with mutual friends: Chad, Paul, Anthony, Judy, Rob, Daniel, and many others; and editing/review by members of my family, ‘Ryan Miller,’ Carol, and Todd.
2016-06-19 Update: Link fixed to the annotated speaking notes: 20160530 Memorial Day Peoria County Speech Speaking Notes w Ann. Also, I am remiss for not mentioning another big highlight of the day: One of the VIPs was retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Hal Fritz! I was able to introduce him to someone close to me, but I didn’t think to snap a photo and wish very much that I had! Colonel Fritz presented me one of his challenge coins (see below)! I also added a link to William Doyle’s biography of Travis; plus a pair of photos of Travis’ Tye Band (which I wore during the speech) and the memorial challenge coin Travis’ father Gary gave me at lunch that day before the speech.
It’s hard to believe that your USAF career has ended when it feels like we were classmates just last semester. Looking forward to catching up with you in Europe.
You’re right, Mark, it does seem like we were recently frantically reading from and posting course material to Blackboard, doesn’t it? We’re looking forward to hosting you over here! (Although I’m going to ask to wait a couple weeks until our furniture arrives. . . !)