First Parish Church, Bedford, MA
October 18, 2006
By Brian T. Hart
Three years ago today, we were hit in the heart so hard, we gasped for breath.
This is a day to be among friends, to stay busy, thinking of others and to share the ties that bind.
Now with three years gone by, I have caught my breath and I want to speak from the heart about shared things – shared friends, shared pain, and a shared future for our country.
We want to thank the people of Bedford, our friends, who have helped us when we were sick and weary.
I see people here today that shared with us the most painful days of our lives.
We have shared deep, deep losses together, we have stood on this common ground and in this place of worship several times together, we have heard taps together – for John, then for Travis. We shook to the loud retort of rifles in salute and we shared together a moment in time at Arlington Cemetery with Sen. Kennedy in 2003 together when we buried our son John.
Sen. Kennedy told Alma it was best to visit Arlington in the morning – that it was a private time in a public place before the crowds arrived …..
A year after meeting Sen. Kennedy, Alma, Elizabeth, Rebecca and I and a few friends went down to Arlington, to visit John. By John’s grave in Section 60 were rows of freshly dug graves from Iraq and Afghanistan.
On that Sunday morning we stood alone on a green hill looking at white headstones in autumn. Senator Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy joined us with flowers – this small private group on a hill.
We shared a moment - a remembrance of loved ones buried there.
We share a small piece of earth, as we share today, a friendship and a deep and abiding love for this land.
Before I was born, Senator Kennedy knew what it was like to be a Gold Star Family. In 1944 as a young boy he felt his family reel from the death his older brother Joseph who had been killed after volunteering for a secret mission over the English Channel. Today his name is written on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Cemetery in Cambridge England.
When I was four and in Abilene, Texas, my mother plopped me in front of a small black & white television and told me to watch and remember and I did. The month was November, the year 63.
A few years later, I put a small transistor radio to my ear and heard, “Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby? Can you tell me where he’s gone? I thought I saw him walk up over the hill, with Abraham, Martin and John.”…
In our heart, we feel today like we felt then - that the country has spiraled off course.
We have got to make our country right somehow.
So it is fitting that we meet here today, at our invitation, to talk about what is lost and what is found and the knowledge that it is never too late to do the right thing.
We know that a country that can no longer properly equip its troops – where “too little, too late,” is the motto of defeat from a broken and corrupt procurement system is not right.
We know that torture is not about semantics, but about who we are as a people and what we stand for as a nation.
We know that liberators leave and occupiers stay.
We know as a people, we have been divided and deceived.
We know that it is wrong for 2% of the population to bear the military service of this country, rotation after rotation, while the rich enjoy tax cuts, and the poor in New Orleans live without hope.
We know we are off course.
We want to be proud Americans.
We want our country back.
We cannot be afraid.
We will not be silent.
We know in our gut, that an honest debate about the future of this country will not happen until either one, or both of the Houses of Congress are controlled by the Democratic Party.
It is with deepest humility that Alma and I want to thank you, our friends, for sharing our pain, and our struggle together.
It is with pride that we introduce to you one of the greatest Americans of our time, a man I am proud to call our friend, the Honorable Senator Edward Kennedy.