Colonel Albert D. Audette, Jr., U.S.A.F. (Retired)
Keynote Address – Memorial Day 2015
Keynote Address – Memorial Day 2015
Honored and Heroic Heroes, Men and Women of our Armed Forces and you, their Families, Mayor Boughton and Honored Guests, Americans,
Thank you for the great honor you do me by your invitation to be with you this Memorial Day. I am doubly honored when I return home to Danbury because – I carry with me, the Keys to the City of Danbury – a most memorable gift, given me some ten years ago by His Honor, Mayor Boughton.
On this, the beginning of my 83rd year – not only can I say that I am a veteran of two wars, I can say unequivocally that I believe in America.
I look around and see Americans! I see families waiting to become Americans… I see men, women and children here today who believe in America.
How very proud I am to be a veteran. How proud I am to call myself a patriot. There is a big difference between American service members and those of other nations.
I’ve travelled the world as a soldier-fighter pilot. I’ve personally trained fighter pilots from most every country… but there’s no one like an American.
I’ve figured out why. When Americans walk abroad, they can be picked out of any crowd! How? Because they walk as they do at home – free, without fear, and noble in that knowledge.
Because of our heritage, our soldiers, sailors and airmen measure a different depth of bravery, a more spirited depth of courage.
We do NOT fear to die for your country; rather, we fear that we will NOT bring honor to our country.
We serve because it is our DUTY and NOT because of gain.
This is why we call American fighting men and women heroes. Each is of Faith on one hand, and works on the other.
Our Founders were also men, women and families of Faith – and with that same difference.
As Saint James wrote. “Thus faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
The Faith of our Fathers resulted in their works: the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights.
This great and mighty nation was founded on the notion that we are a free people with the right to pursue happiness and our individual dreams.
With the right to believe in our dream of liberty!
I believe in this Danbury land upon which we stand this moment – the only land in the entire universe that is, and always will be, a solid bastion of FREE PEOPLE.
I believe in our sweet, true and trusted values – where faith, goodness and courage are always fresh and made to flourish.
Because I believe in the innocence and naiveté of happiness – I believe these virtues find their homeland in America!
Since the Revolution, American men and women have given their hearts and lives for the freedoms and beliefs we hold as our own.
These warriors of Faith are buried honorably in our national and state cemeteries, many are buried at sea – where they fell.
And, the Lord forgive us, thousands are buried abroad in foreign countries – these, I say, bring them all home! Bring our fallen heroes home.
Today we honor them as they rest, their sacred work finished.
Within our soil lay the bones of many unknown heroes, whose bravery, courage, and patriotism they placed above their own… rest in peace and thank you, blessed brothers and sisters.
Some will say that we lost two wars. We soldiers have NOT…. I was in the Tet Offensive… history books say that we lost the Tet Offensive.
At dinner a few years ago a high school senior asked me to look at his term paper: The title was “How the U.S. Lost the Tet Offensive.” Though I went into the internet archives to prove that we had not – he replied that he had to repeat what was written in his history book!
We did not loose the Tet Offensive, son, I said, “I was there.”
Some will say we lost Fallujah… We soldiers will say we did not.
Our Fathers and Mothers have given us this soil, to guard and make prosper. I believe that our youth will one day provide even more!
I believe in our children, for we bequeath to them our Faith and our trust… everything to them, so that tomorrow, they will believe even greater things than we can.
I believe that freedom is the handmaid of Columbia, the woman whose statue stands aloft our Nation’s Capitol dome… through her gateway… anyone can climb to the greatest heights; for America is the fertile soil of curiosity.
I believe in our Republic, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights.
We are NOT a democracy… WE ARE A REPUBLIC! And I believe in all this!
I believe that no person has the right to restrain our freedom, to make us a nation we are not, or to prevent us from speaking our peace. Our Constitution, our Flag, and our United States of America are one entity – both under man and under God…
And shame the American who betrays either – but let him speak in peace.
As a soldier, I say, there is unfinished work to be done.
Today other enemies threaten us – and you know who and what they are – irrational terrorists who would fly their black flag above our nation.
Why have we lost what we had already gained?
Only true Americans believe – take a deep breath and BREATHE in America’s sweet Spirit – as you take another breath… feel, all the way through… to your very bones and heart… the Spirit of all Americans around the word and you who are with us today… and as far back to where our history began.
In 1892, an American who believed in that spirit, and in all we live for; wrote an American Pledge. Together, let’s say:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you dear family and God Bless our Heroes!
Colonel Albert D. Audette, Jr. is a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport.
Father Audette enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1950 and was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force in 1953. He served as a flight instructor, fighter pilot and as a staff officer in many major commands. In addition to serving as a combat pilot he served at Headquarters of the U.S. Air Force, was the Air Defense Attache with the State Department and served as the director of intelligence for the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Audette retired in 1980 at the rank of colonel.
Colonel Audette earned numerous air combat medals, a Portuguese Cross with Military Merit and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star.
In 1989, soon after the death of his beloved wife, Father Audette entered the seminary and was ordained in 1993. He served in several parishes in Danbury, Bethel and Brookfield prior to his mandatory retirement and now is a resident priest at the Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist in Stamford, Connecticut.
Father Audette’s “retirement” days remain very busy helping at the Basilica in addition to his newest focus as the founder of the Roman Catholic Center for Mental Health and Spiritual Development whose mission is to provide positive psychiatric care and mental health services to individuals and families unable to afford these services.
Father Al has four children, fourteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.