Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Look Back: Ilario Pantano keynotes moving tribute to fallen American heroes in 2010 Memorial Day observance.

This is an excerpt from Verne Strickland's coverage of the 2010 Memorial Day observance in Wilmington, NC, first published on June 1st, 2010. Verne now writes his popular conservative column for USA DOT COM


Everyone in the world wants your freedom.

Question is – do you want it more than they do?

Through the years, over a million Americans in uniform have answered that question by fighting – and dying -- for their country.

Memorial Day – May 31, 2010 – was a day to honor their sacrifice, by coming together in prayer, gratitude, and reflection.

At Wilmington’s Hugh MacRae Park, in a moving ceremony on a sunny afternoon, a gathering too small in number mourned those who have been lost – but not without cause.

In the shadow of a monument to Fallen Heroes – sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, who called New Hanover County home while they lived -- respect was paid by the posting of the colors, the laying of wreaths, patriotic remarks, and a bugler’s soft call of Taps.

The moving tribute was organized by American Legion Post 10 of Wilmington, formed 91 years ago – among the oldest Legion groups in North Carolina.

Keynote speaker for this 2010 Memorial Day event was Ilario Pantano, a combat veteran of two tours in the Middle East as a U.S. Marine officer.

His wife Jill, and their two sons, watched from a position close by the speaker’s podium in a shaded, grassy corner of the park.

Pantano chose as the theme for his Memorial Day presentation the story of the National Anthem, which we know as “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

He noted that the lyrics of the anthem come from “Defence of Fort McHenry”, a poem written in 1814 by 35-year-old amateur poet Francis Scott Key, who had witnessed the bombardment of the fort by ships of the British Royal Navy in Chesapeake Bay. The Battle of Fort McHenry took place during the War of 1812.

“His inspiration came as he realized that the American flag was still waving above the fort after the horrific, unrelenting attack from British warships. In his lines, he asks, ‘Oh, say, can you see?’ He almost wonders if it actually is still there.”

Fort McHenry was held by 1,000 defiant American defenders, who stood fast through 25 hours of bombardment by the British fleet of 19 ships, Pantano said.

“There were bombs bursting in air, and ‘the rockets’ red glare’ was from ordnance used as a psychological weapon of terror. The rockets were inherently inaccurate, but they added to the mental anguish of being under intense attack,” he observed.

Pantano punctuated his riveting patriotic discourse by raising the concluding line of a stanza rarely included in the singing of “the Star Spangled Banner” today: “Then conquer we must when our cause is just, and this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

In 1956, the United States by law adopted “In God We Trust” as the national motto.

“Those American heroes weren’t afraid to talk about God,” Pantano asserted. “And they weren’t afraid of those British guns. They held their posts. They won. And here we are today honoring the sacrifices for our nation then and now.

“We have freedoms, opportunities, liberties, that are worth fighting for, and are worth dying for. We’ll never forget that. And we’ll never forget those who have fallen,” Pantano concluded.


Post Script: Ilario Pantano is a candidate for the U.S. Congress in 2012 -- his second bid for the office, for which he will likely run in the Thirteenth North Carolina Congressional District.

He is a solid favorite this time, after running a close and spirited race in 2010 against Mike McIntyre -- finally falling in the final stages of that campaign against a generously-funded seven-term incumbent.

This year Ilario will assume a prominent role in a unique 2011 Memorial Day Event:

"Murph on Memorial Day" Fundraiser for Wounded Warrior Project and the college funds of MSG Ben Bitner's son. 

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