Speaking of "our personal pledge to duty, honor, country," President Thomas S. Monson told some 19,000 people at a patriotic service here June 28 that those words were "our watchwords, whether in war or peace."
President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, addressed the topic, "In Remembrance" at the service in the BYU Marriott Center as part of Provo's Freedom Festival in commemoration of America's Independence Day.The non-denominational service was telecast to an estimated 350,000 Church members via the Church satellite system.
President Monson was accompanied to the patriotic service by his wife, Frances. Also in attendance were Elder Ben B. Banks of the Seventy and president of the Utah South Area, and his wife, Susan; and Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy and BYU president, and his wife, Marilyn.
The 560th Air Force Band from Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash., was featured on the program with President Monson. Also participating was a 1,998-voice family choir from Utah Valley led by Mack Wilberg, speech contest winner Megan Gelter, 17, and astronaut Richard Searfoss, the first Church member to command a NASA spacecraft.
Quoting Gen. Robert E. Lee of Civil War fame, President Monson said, "
Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less.' " He also quoted Harry Emerson Fosdick, a renowned Protestant minister and speaker, saying, " Duty is never worthily performed until it is done by one who would gladly do more if he could.' "
Speaking of honor, President Monson explained, "Honor is akin to duty. It is an expression of our inner selves, a commitment to do that which is right. We remember the adage: `You can't be right by doing wrong, and you can't be wrong by doing right.' "
As he began his address, President Monson spoke of his love for the flag. He recalled returning from a recent assignment in England, Holland and Denmark and seeing beautiful flags at each house in his neighborhood in commemoration of Flag Day.
"Gazing at the sight of Old Glory," President Monson said, "took me back many years to those boyhood days of long ago."
He then reminisced about boyhood experiences of being a member of the Junior Red Cross and of the Drum and Bugle Corps of his elementary school. While he could not play the bugle, he said he simply "loved marching and hearing the sound of those who could play while carrying the precious flag to the proper spot and lifting it to the top of the flagpole in reverent silence."
While he was in junior high school, Pearl Harbor day changed his world and that of Americans everywhere, said President Monson. Toward the end of World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy and said he often waited "for the clear sound of the bugle playing Reveille as morning dawned, and the mournful sound of Taps in the evening indicating lights out. I confess that at such moments I felt a lump in my throat and the beginning of tears in my eyes."
He said that as a boy - and even today - he enjoyed reading the account of the lost battalion, a unit of the 77th Infantry Division in World War I.
"During the Meuse-Argonne offensive, a major led this battalion through a gap in the enemy lines, but the troops on the flanks were unable to advance. An entire battalion was surrounded. Food and water were short; casualties could not be evacuated. Repeated attacks were hurled back."
President Monson related that after a brief but desperate period of total isolation, other units of the 77th Division advanced and relieved the "lost battalion."
Correspondents noted in their dispatches that the relieving forces seemed bent on a crusade of love to rescue their comrades in arms, he recalled.
"Forgotten is the plight of the lost battalion. Unremembered is the terrible price paid for its rescue. But let us turn from the past and survey the present. Are there `lost battalions' even today? If so, what is our responsibility to rescue them? Their members may not wear clothes of khaki brown or march to the sound of drums. But they share the same doubt, feel the same despair, and know the same disillusionment that isolation brings."
President Monson explained that there are lost battalions of the handicapped, the lame, the speechless and the sightless.
"If you desire to see a rescue operation of a lost battalion, visit your city's center for the blind and witness the selfless service of those who read to those who can't," said President Monson. "Observe the skills which are taught the handicapped. Be inspired by the efforts put forth in their behalf to help them feel secure and obtain meaningful employment.
"Those who labor so willingly and give so generously to those who have lost so tragically find ample reward in the light which they bring into the lives of so many."
President Monson then asked the audience to consider the lost battalions of the aged, the widowed, the sick. "All too often they are found in the parched and desolate wilderness of isolation called loneliness. When youth departs, when health declines, when vigor wanes, when the light of hope flickers ever so dimly, the members of these vast lost battalions can be rescued by the hand that helps and the heart that knows compassion."
There are other lost battalions comprised of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who have, through thoughtless comment, isolated themselves from one another, said President Monson.
He told an account of such a tragedy that was narrowly averted when a young man, Jack, left home following an argument with his father, despite his father's apology and expression of love. After much reflection, he returned home shortly before midnight.
"There, in the rocking chair, sat his father, his head in his hands. As he looked up and saw Jack, he rose from the chair and they rushed into each other's arms.
"Jack often said, `Those last years that I was home were among the happiest of my life.'
"Here was a boy who overnight became a man," said President Monson. "Here was a father who, suppressing passion and bridling pride, rescued his son before he became one of the vast lost battalion resulting from fractured families and shattered homes. Love was the binding, healing balm. Love - so often felt; so seldom expressed."
President Monson said that as citizens ponder a personal pledge to duty, honor, country and the challenges each must face in his or her personal life, the words of poet Mary Dow Brine may be helpful:
"I said to the man who stood at the gate of the years:
Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he repliedGo out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.' "