While I was a junior in high school, my father came home one evening after work and hung a presentation copy of General Douglas McArthur’s Duty, Honor, Country speech in his home office. Over time I came to learn that in his view the General’s speech embodied in the best possible way the character and resolve of those who—like my father—fought in the Second World War.
Today, I have in my own library at home a first edition copy of General MacArthur’s autobiography, Reminiscences, which on its last pages contains the General’s text of this speech. Unfortunately, on the internet many texts of the speech omit important parts.
I have read the speech many times.
The words, Duty, Honor, Country are a “guidepost,” MacArthur said, that “stands out like a tenfold beacon in the night.”
What has always struck me with particular force are these words of the General, “The code which those words perpetrate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong. The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training—sacrifice.”
During my tenure as Supreme Knight, I have had the privilege of meeting with our Brother knights who are members of our military councils in Japan, South Korea, Europe and throughout the United States in places like Ft. Bragg, Ft. Campbell, Camp LeJeune, Naval Air Station Pensacola and aboard the USS George Washington and the USS Eisenhower as well as our wounded veterans on Knights of Columbus sponsored military pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.
What these Brother knights have taught me is that the General’s words are true.
And they have taught me something else.
The Catholic virtues of Charity, Unity, Fraternity, which are the great principles of our Order also “stand out like a tenfold beacon in the night.”
Like Duty, Honor, Country they can form the character of the Catholic American soldier. And like the General said of the principles, Duty, Honor, Country, “They (too) will build your basic character; they mold you for your future roles as custodians of the nation’s defense.”
They will help you bring a needed Catholic perspective to the maintenance of our nation’s moral compass.
The Knights of Columbus is more proud than we can say of your determination to serve our nation and we are ready to stand with you as you enter your professional service.
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