(Address delivered by Harry B. Butters, who served as a Norwood Selectman for 35 years, on May 15, 1945, at a ceremony in Memorial Hall honoring Norwood’s Gold Star Mothers)
Up to this hour 41 sons of Norwood – young men in the full bloom of their manhood – have laid down their lives in this terrible war which is being waged, we are told, for the establishment of freedom for all peoples everywhere. We gather here tonight to do honor to the memory of those men, for they are our heroic dead.
Yes, they are our heroic dead. But they were your loved ones, and so this occasion is to me indeed a circumstance of great sorrow. I am going to try to recite for you something which I have read in a daily newspaper. It is that which an American soldier boy – dead American soldier boy lying in the muck and mire – presumably spoke unto himself as he lay in his sleep of death.
Oh. I didn’t want to die young, because I had dreams just like all the other guys.
Well, to each one of our heroic dead let me say tonight:
Yes, my boy. Somebody else does care.
The people of this, your old hometown, care, and on behalf of these people
we gather here tonight to pay tribute to you
and to present to your loved ones
a memento symbolizing the admiration of a grateful community.Harry B. Butters
I wanted to march back up Main Street and catch the flowers the women threw. I wanted to open up the old front gate that always squeaked. Gee, I meant to fix that so many times. I wanted to walk up the path through the front door straight into the arms of my Mother. I wanted another piece of her apple pie and a good sleep again in the bed that I slept in since I was a kid.
And Janie! Oh, how I wanted to see Janie to tell her personally, for I never was much of a hand at letter writing. I wanted to see Janie and tell her personally how deeply I loved her. I wanted to see stars again in a peaceful sky. I wanted life. I wanted to live. God knows I didn’t want to die. I wonder if anybody besides me and Janie cares . . . . ‘ Well, to each one of our heroic dead let me say tonight: Yes, my boy. Somebody else does care. The people of this, your old hometown, care, and on behalf of these people we gather here tonight to pay tribute to you and to present to your loved ones a memento symbolizing the admiration of a grateful community.
Oh, after you had lived your last few moments upon this earth, the world proclaimed that you had died the most glorious death that is given to man to die. For it has truly been written, “Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends!” And if ever in all of the history of the wars of the world men have laid down their lives for a love of their fellow man, it is in the death of the flower of youth of this great American nation in the last terrible war and in this one. Your home was not attacked. Freedom reigned throughout the length and breadth of this nation of yours. But throughout the world other peoples were being prosecuted and subjugated, and the leaders of this, your nation, summoned you forth to prepare for and to engage in a war with the oppressors of those peoples. And you, in the joyfulness of your youth, journeyed afar on the land or on the sea or in the air. And in some place far distant from your home and your loved ones you laid down your life in answer to that summons. And for that deed 1 am certain that one day the people of this town will memorialize your name in this very structure that all posterity shall know of your noble sacrifice.
Yes, my boy, somebody else does care, and while the world proclaims that you have died a most glorious death, we humbly ask Almighty God to rest your immortal soul.
And to you, their loved ones, let me say that those of us who speak to you here tonight on behalf of this community feel that we are licensed to do so only because we, like you, have embraced in sorrowing farewell our own flesh and blood in their journey off to the war fronts of the world. We stand tonight just as you have stood in that terrible era of expectancy, despairing every hour of the day of an entrance into that valley of sorrow where you now so gallantly stand. Yes, your loved ones have died a most glorious death. May Almighty God rest your immortal souls and bless you in your fortitude.