Fort Riley, Kansas


Selected Speeches given by 1st Inf. Div/Fort Riley commanders

Victory Park Memorial Ceremony

By Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr. | 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general | June 08, 2016

Thank you all for being here at this memorial ceremony… many of you have traveled a great distance to be here.

My name is Wayne Grigsby
and I am a Big Red One Soldier proudly serving in our Nation’s 1st Division!

Today is a very special day.

Today is our 99th birthday!

The 1st Expeditionary Division was organized in New York on June 8, 1917.  The total authorized strength was 18,919 men, and in the following few months the Division would begin movement to Europe to fight in World War I.  Let’s give a round of applause for the BIG RED ONE!

I would like to extend a warm welcome to our Gold Star Families,
our distinguished guests, and the Soldiers, Friends, Families, Veterans and Retirees.

Before I continue
, I would like to recognize our brothers in Arms from the 9th Infantry Division THE OLD RELIABLES!  These proud Soldiers underwent one of the most dangerous and tenacious mission-sets in Vietnam.  Facing the VC in the rivers and marshes of Vietnam joined with the Naval Riverine in the brown water missions.

Please join me in the spirit of this ceremony
, in a round of applause to show our dear and earnest appreciation for their selfless service.  OLD Reliables you are NOT forgotten!

This is a solemn occasion, but also one that brings a bit of hope

This week is devoted to the history of our great Division.  We marked the anniversary of D-Day
where we lost over “13 hundred men”, we will mark the 50th Anniversary of Vietnam and we remember here in the stones and monuments in this park the men and women lost in the Global War on Terror.

Ceremonies like this turn my thoughts to my time as a Brigade Commander during the surge in Iraq
I think about what I could have done better as a brigade commander.   

How could I have prevented the deaths of 39 Soldiers lost during that very violent time.

Like so many left mourning brave young lives lost to the fight against evil
, blood treasure sewn to reap the spoils of freedom.

I can feel the crushing weight of their absence
and sense the hollowness of their “emptied-places” in our formation and not just the absence of those 39 Soldiers under my command, but of all brave men and women that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

We mourn the lives stopped short in the service to others
, we mourn our friends who will no longer light our lives and we question to ourselvesWhat should we do now in the aftermath of such hurtful loss?

Years late
r after much reflection, I've come to the conclusion that the only way to move forward is to live an honorable life and to help those around me do the same.  I believe it's my duty!... my responsibility!  my charge!  And it is the duty…responsibility…and charge of all who remain and honor the fallen to continue-on in their absence being men and women of character and integrity.  We cannot let the opportunities of our lives slip away.  The only thing worse than a life lost is life wasted.

When we start to falter as we all will I encourage you to do… as I dolook to our heroes and to the sacrifice they made, ask yourself a simple question.  "Am… I… worthy of the gift they've seized for me?" Many of us will immediately answer "no,"…I did at first but the key is to work every day… to make your life count and not waste the gift they have preserved.  

I believe that we here in the Big Red One… are doing everything we can to “live-up-to” and honor the memories of those hence gone.  Our leaders look to the example of the warriors-past and strive to train our Soldiers to be professionals, competent in their craft, ready to face the challenges of an unknown threat, and to close with and destroy the enemy, whoever they are and where ever they hide!  For that is the Army’s purpose to fight and win our nation’s land wars.  It is a dangerous job and an important one.  One we owe the men and women in service the very best if we are going to send them into harm’s way.  More importantly our leaders look to the sacrifices made and ensure we also… are building Americans of great character and virtue because who you become in the process matters just as much as winning the wars and battles!

For the second year in a row, we will not emplace any additional stones in Victory Park.  While this is a joyous milestone families left whole, we… will!… not!… forget the strong families that continue the legacies… of those that are on the stones here.

Our families are our strength
.  They are the ones that bear the burden of keeping the home fires burning while Soldiers are away.  Mothers and fathers who spend late nights and early mornings wondering if their children are all right.  Spouses turned single parents searching for a way to explain to their children where their mother or father are and some children too young to have ever known their parent, examining their reality and youthful understanding for clarity in the circumstances.

When a Soldier dies… their family does not stop being a military family… as so many of you here today know
.  Our Gold Star Families remain engaged in the military community.  With the help of our Survivor Outreach Services… to whom we owe a debt of gratitude our Gold Star Families continue to help our military community stay strong and resilient.  Many of our Gold Star Families are involved with helping others in need.  They reach out to families that are struggling with loss, volunteer to help Soldiers with organizations on post and keep the memory of their Champion alive by staying connected to their service members’ unit.

I am so proud of our Gold Star Families
.  Each and every one of the gold star family members have displayed an awe inspiring depth of courage and power!

Stepping in those hallowed positions in our formation to link our rank and file together and support us as we continue in-stride to defeat the enemies of America.

Thank you for what you do, we appreciate your dedication to the military and your hero and we… LOVE you all

I will leave you with the words that Abraham Lincoln wrote to a Massachusetts mother, Mrs. Bixby, who’d lost FIVE sons in the Civil War, “I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

May each of us find peace with the loss of our dear loved ones and honor their lives through our deeds and in our character, every day!  God Bless you all!

“No Mission Too Difficult, No Sacrifice Too Great!”

“Duty First!”
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