Duty, Honor, Country.
Congressman John Fleming uttered these three hallowed words often Sunday afternoon as he spoke to American veterans, their families and other Minden residents during the local Veterans Day memorial held at Turner's Pond.
Under gray skies and a threat of violent storms, veterans listened intently as the local physician and Naval vet spoke of the sacrifices a soldier is forced to make and the debt this country owes its protectors.
Speaking from General Douglas MacArthur's 1962 farewell address to the cadets of West Point, Fleming said the words "duty, honor, country" reverently dictate the role of an American soldier.
"The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind," Fleming recited. "Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.
"You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense," he continued from the legendary general's address. "The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country."
And acknowledging the sometimes violent and deadly nature of a soldier's existence, Fleming continued that such facts "do not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: 'Only the dead have seen the end of war.'"
Turning to the present, with a wary eye to the future, Fleming spoke of his concerns about cuts to National Defense, cuts he said could spell dangerous days for the United States.
He pledged to fight further budget cuts to the military, cuts that "threaten to hollow our National Defense."
He also said he would work with President Obama; however, he would butt heads when necessary in order to protect the protectors.
"All of our declarations, laws and government are nothing but scraps of paper without those who stand in the breach," he said. "There is nothing too good for those who have gone into battle to preserve our democracy."
Fleming was the guest speaker during Sunday's event, but he was not the only veteran recognized.
Jerry and Cindy Madden, parents of slain Minden solider Sgt. Josh Madden, spoke of their son and thanked Fleming for his role in naming the Minden-Sibley interstate interchange in honor of their fallen kin.
Following the changing of colors by the Youth Challenge Program Color Guard, local veterans of all branches of the Armed Forces participated in flag raisings for their respective services.
The Rev. Bill Ichter served as the master of ceremonies and thanked those in attendance, asking that the sacrifices of America's soldiers never be forgotten.