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The Hesston Record
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Hesston, KS 67062
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July 12, 2018 Hesston RecordJuly 12, 2018 Hesston Record

Memorial Day Service

Posted 6/1/2017

Hesston Record Staff

This Memorial Day, just over 100 Hesstonians gathered at Hesston Cemetery to honor veterans and loved ones who have passed on.

The address, given by Dr. Rev. Gary Blaine, focused on the moral choices that soldiers must make while in the field.

“We have gathered in Hesston, Kansas, to celebrate the patriotism and moral excellence of women and men who died in military service for their country.” said Blaine during his address.

Blaine emphasized military men and women in combat face moral and ethical challenges every moment.

“The words courageous, brave and patriotic easily flow off our tongues. Those are important words and surly we honor their heroic and intrepid sacrifices. I also invite us today to bend our respect to these military warriors who are also moral agents. They are men and women who made ethical choices throughout their entire military career - most sharply on the field of battle,” Blaine continued.

Blaine said the modesty of many soldiers, through “just following orders” or “doing what they were trained to do” in itself represents a complex moral framework. 

Blaine relayed the story of a Viet Nam veteran he only called Jim, a man he met through a Viet Nam veterans support group. 

Jim came face-to-face with the worst guerrilla tactic, child suicide bombers.  Jim took aim and shot an eight-year-old boy who did not obey his orders to stop.  The boy, and t he bomb strapped to his back, exploded before reaching Jim and his platoon.

“Jim carried that memory for the rest of his life.  It is easy to declare how horribly that story is - and it is despicable. I can even imagine that some would condemn Jim for his actions. But I do not.

“I honor him for his conscience and his courage to make a moral choice for the safety of his squad and platoon. It was a moral choice in the most dangerous of circumstances,” said Blaine.

Blaine then told the story of Commander Howard Walter Gilmore, Commander of the USS Growler in World War II. The submarine rammed a Japanese ship and came under fire.  Gilmore was wounded and could not escape below deck with his crew.  Blaine said Gilmore’s final order was “take her down,” knowing he would perish.

“I’m wondering if you can imagine the conflicted moral sense the crew felt as they followed his order, knowing their commander would die,” said Blaine.

Blaine continued, “I believe that all battlefield ethics are conflicted. They are not without doubt, without competing moral options or without flaws due to inadequate intelligence or self-interest.”

However, Blaine said he believed no soldier would be condemned for his or her choices under fire or “because he or she did not make pristine ethical decisions.”

While those who died in battle will not be condemned, Blaine said, the soldiers who survive combat also face ongoing struggles.

“We must honor those who survived warfare and question their decisions they made. Some will suffer survivor’s guilt and wonder why their lives were spared.  Please understand this is not just a dynamic of grief - is a profound doubt of one’s character and integrity,” he said.

Blaine called for those in attendance to continue to honor veterans who died both at home and on the battle field.

“We remember those who sacrificed their lives for a cause greater than their own. We honor those who left their bodies in trenches, on islands, in deserts, mountains and the depths of the sea.”