At the American Legion Post 168’s annual Memorial Day observance, Maj. Gen. Jim Rainey, the 3rd Infantry Division commander, spoke to those gathered about the support they give to currently serving soldiers and how they can honor those who were killed.
“Thank you for everybody in the community for — on behalf of all the soldiers and their families at Fort Stewart and Hunter (Army Airfield) that I’m responsible for,” he said after being introduced. “Thank you for the incredible support, not just on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but every day that we get.”
In a detour from his prepared speech, Rainey said that when he travels and meets with people from across the country, he gets asked “if America is going to be OK” because “a lot of people are worried about our country.”
“And I would just tell you that we’ve got some stuff to work on, obviously, that we can always get better, but anybody who’s worried about America needs to come to someplace like this,” he said of Hinesville on Memorial Day.
“And then you’d know what I know — that we’ve got some problems, but America’s the greatest country that’s ever lived,” he said. “It is one nation under God, indivisible, and it’s because of people like you … that have made it so, and make it so every day.”
Rainey recognized the veterans and Gold Star families in the audience, telling them “anything you ever need, forever, we will always be here for you. And that’s a responsibility that I don’t take lightly, and I will not fail to support you, anything you ever need.”
Memorial Day is about recognizing the service members who died on behalf of the country, Rainey said. Since the Revolutionary War, 1.3 million men and women “have died in combat in service to our country.”
“That seems like a big number, 1.3 million,” he said. “But if you think about that in the entire time the United States has been fighting for our freedom and keeping it for our entire history, only 1.3 million men and women have died in service to our country. And that’s pretty special. And I’m glad to be here with you today to honor them.”
Those men and women can be honored, he said in a few examples, by coming to Memorial Day ceremonies to remember them, or visiting a veteran’s grave, or even by checking in on families to make sure they are OK.
Rainey said he uses the “memory of those fallen men and women to drive the way we train and prepare to keep America free, with a passion that I hope would make them proud. That they’d look down on the way our soldiers are getting after our business today and would be proud to see how we’re approaching that.”
People can spend time with family on Memorial Day, he said, because even though there is sadness, the men and women that have died would “want us to have a good time today.”
Rainey added that they would “want us to pay some respect, be solemn” but also enjoy going to the beach or have a barbecue with family.
“So it’s OK for all of us to celebrate all the freedoms we have as Americans that were paid for and earned by those 1.3 million people,” Rainey said.
He had a request for those in attendance as he closed his speech.
“As we spend some time today and we mourn the fact that those men and women died, I’d ask you to please thank God that they lived,” Rainey said. “That they lived for us — because without them, and without all of you, there wouldn’t be a United States of America.”