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Gratitude Alone is Not Enough”
AMS Medal Award Acceptance Remarks

Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

9th Annual Benefit for the Archdiocese for Military Services, USA
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Washington, D.C.
November 18, 2017

            I am deeply grateful to Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, U.S.A. for the recognition of the Knights of Columbus and my brother Knights’ service to our military chaplains. The award of the Archdiocese Medal this year is especially significant as the Knights of Columbus commemorates 100 years of support of our military and our military chaplains.

            I think all of us here tonight remember that extraordinary scene at the end of the film “Saving Private Ryan” when Ryan, now an old man, returns to Normandy and at the American cemetery there asks his wife whether he has lived a life that has earned the sacrifice of those men who died saving him.  He says to her, “Tell me I am a good man, that I have lived a good life.”

            As I walk through airports around the country, I find it remarkable how often our men and women in uniform are greeted by strangers passing them with the salutation, “Thank you for your service.”  And that is as it should be. 

            But we owe these men and women something more.  We owe them the same sense of gratitude and determination expressed by Private Ryan: have we as a nation earned the sacrifice of those men and women who died saving the free way of life we now enjoy and which some too often take for granted?

            Some years ago, I visited the American cemetery at Normandy Beach and also the Ranger monument at Pointe du Hoc.  Looking out at the thousands of white crosses and Stars of David covering a sea of green grass and then later that same day looking down from the edge of Pointe du Hoc at the cliff the Second Ranger Battalion climbed are two images I will always remember.

            They are images that impressed upon me deeply that gratitude alone is not enough.  What is needed is a determination that our nation shall always merit the sacrifices of such young American men and women and their families.

            In his last book entitled, To America, Stephen Ambrose, the great historian of the Second World War, observed, “in my interviews with World War II veterans, they sometimes tell me that the reason they fought was they had learned as children the difference between right and wrong and they didn’t want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed, so they fought.” (p. 90)

            But where does the moral compass come from to discern right from wrong and where does the moral courage come from to defend what we know to be right?

            Those of us who have had the privilege of working alongside the Archdiocese for the Military Services know very well the answer to those questions. 

            We have seen the impact on our troops of distributing 600,000 military prayer books — and recently a retired Marine Corps Colonel told me he carried our prayer book in the uniform pocket over his heart every day he served in Iraq.

            We have seen the dedication of our priests serving as chaplains throughout the world — and the same spirit of service in those men entering the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program.

            We have seen the courage of those veterans in VA medical centers we have accompanied through the VAVS program.

            We have been inspired by the sacrifice and courage of our wounded warriors and their families on pilgrimage to the Shrine at Lourdes.

            It is for these reasons and more that the Knights of Columbus is so proud to begin our second century of support of our military and our chaplains this year.

            And I would like to add a word of very sincere thanks to my brother Knight, Col. Chuck Gallina, who as my Assistant for Military and Veterans Affairs has worked tirelessly for the past twelve years to coordinate our military programs and outreach.

            And, permit me to conclude with words taken from President Dwight Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the Nation.  He said this: “We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease, and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.” (p. 124)

            Let me say this evening, as Catholic men dedicated to the principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, the Knights of Columbus pray that such a day will soon appear and we will continue our work to see that it does.