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Monument honors defenders of freedom

PROVIDENCE, Utah — In a Memorial Day ceremony in this town in northern Utah's Cache Valley, Elder L. Tom Perry dedicated a new monument to honor World War II veterans and others who have fought to preserve the freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Elder Perry, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and himself a World War II veteran, noted in his dedicatory prayer, "It is proper that such a monument be placed in the city of Providence, for the name Providence means 'God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.' "

The monument is "designed with love and careful craftsmanship to honor all who have served from this community in wars which have been fought for the preservation of law and our freedoms as safeguarded by the inspired Constitution of the United States," he said in the prayer.

Six World War II veterans formed an organization in 1998 to create the monument. Nate Zollinger organized a six-member committee and served as its first president. He and another committee member, Lloyd Lenhart, did not live to see its completion, however. They died in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Their deaths served as a reminder of how quickly the generation of World War II veterans is passing.

Cynthia Hailes, an artist in nearby Millville, Utah, was commissioned to make the larger-than-life bronze sculpture of a soldier kneeling in homage to bronze portraits of three Providence citizens who died in World War II: John A Bistline Jr., LeRoy F. Larsen and Carl R. Miller.

Committee member Hoyt Kelley, paratrooper recipient of three purple hearts, also spoke at the ceremony and shared memories of his service and his recognition of the need for patriotism.

In remarks preceding the dedicatory prayer, Elder Perry recalled his appointment in 1974 to serve on the committee planning the U.S. Bicentennial observance in 1976. Elder Perry said he was placed on a religion subcommittee which had to be structured with a certain balance to be politically acceptable. As a result of the political structuring, the religion committee which Elder Perry chaired found itself paralyzed and unable to draft an acceptable proclamation declaring God's hand in the founding of the nation for fear of offending some political faction or other.

"I reported to . . . the chairman of the committee that we could not reach agreement and nothing would come from our [religion] committee," he recalled, indicating that the other subcommittees found themselves similarly stymied.

"The only contribution I can think of that came out of the national committee was the glorious celebration we had on the Fourth of July of 1976 in Washington, D.C.," Elder Perry related.

"The salvation of the national committee was in holding each of our monthly meetings in a different state. As we listened to the plans for celebrations from each of the committees organized in the several states, we could see the beginning of what we wanted developed. The politically balanced national committee would not achieve much success. But the local committees and state committees, interested not in political balance but in the preparation of a meaningful program that could really produce a feeling and a result for an outstanding 200th birthday celebration were very successful."

An LDS committee, which Elder Perry chaired simultaneously, maintained an active interest until Sept. 17, 1987, when the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution was celebrated.

"So, for over a decade, I had a refresher course in the history of the framing of the Constitution," he reflected. "This exposure enhanced my loyalty and love for this great nation."

He observed: "We have gathered together this beautiful morning to honor those brave men and women who left the comfort of their homes to serve in our country's armed forces during war time. This monument will be a reminder for all who stop here of the sacrifice they made. But will that be enough?"

The monument should also be a reminder of the nation's generosity in blessing other nations of the world in their hour of need, he said. "We can never forget the blessing that comes to us from living in this land with such a great and noble heritage.

"Of course, with blessings come responsibility: a responsibility to serve her when called; a responsibility to defend her when threatened; a responsibility to be informed when voting for her local leadership; a responsibility to contribute to her well being."

There is too much today of complacency and greed, he lamented, adding, "I wonder if what we need is not another Moroni," the Book of Mormon military captain who, when he learned of dissension and wickedness among his people, raised the "title of liberty" to rally others in defense of their liberty, rights and religion.

"Of course, we don't need to rend our coat [as Moroni did] or make a new banner," Elder Perry noted. "We have ours. It is the great flag of the United States of America. It represents our title of liberty. What we need today are others like Moroni of old who will carry the banner before the people and call upon them to get up out of their spectator chairs and lead them in a parade to understand, preserve and protect the great system of government for which it stands.

"The way that we honor these great men and women who have served our country in the most difficult of times is to stand up for what we believe in and play an active part in preserving the great blessings the Lord has given to us in this special land of the United States of America."

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