The Bible says there is a time to live and a time to die. There is also a time to honor heroes who lived their lives in service to America
and who died with a legacy of courage and commitment.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, thank you for being here today.
To Sibyl and the Stockdale family, thank you for the profound honor you extend to all of us by allowing our Naval Service to share this day of remembrance with you. Admiral Stockdale has my deepest respect and, Sibyl, you have my most extraordinary gratitude for inviting me to participate today.
How fitting that we gather on an aircraft carrier … bearing the name of one American giant of the 20th century … as we salute the legacy of another.
That we celebrate the patriotism, service and sacrifices of the Stockdales here in California – the State both the Reagans and the Stockdales loved – makes this setting all the more meaningful.
One of our most eloquent and visionary leaders, President Reagan often spoke of America as the “bright shining city on the hill” where our nation, in every respect, lived up to the grandest notions and values we hold dear as Americans.
Although now on a different hill, Admiral Jim Stockdale’s shining light still guides us and our Nation.
This great American Stockdale family brings to life Winston Churchill’s observation that “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give”. No family gave more.
The world rarely sees a couple like the Stockdales. Sibyl’s story is an inspiration to every American family. She led the effort to publicize the mistreatment of American prisoners of war by the North Vietnamese.
Thanks to Sibyl, the truth about the torture of American prisoners became fully public when the Nixon Administration ended the “keep quiet” policy.
Sibyl was a strong, forceful spokeswoman at home…just as her husband was away…was the undaunted leader of our prisoners in Hanoi.
Napoleon Bonaparte said “A leader is a dealer in hope.” Jim’s leadership brought hope to his men, and Sibyl kept hope alive…within her family …and with the spouses of other POWs.
A Naval hero, scholar, father, and American icon, Admiral Stockdale was a renaissance man.
Of his stoic beliefs, Stockdale, said, “Other people can’t hurt you inside, which is where it counts, if you don’t let them. We can’t always control the circumstances we find ourselves in but we can always control how we respond to them.”
Stockdale’s message for his fellow POWs was his own personal example of strong, positive leadership…in the face of bleak circumstances. He told his men, “We must take control over our own destinies.”
Stockdale inherently knew that character is permanent and that events are transient.
It’s important that we celebrate and remember our heroes.
Heroes exemplify the best attributes, which we all aspire to. Heroes make us unafraid. Their example of courage sustains us in difficult times and gives us courage to strive to be better people and better citizens.
When asked how he wished to be remembered, Jim said, “I guess I’d like to be thought of as a guy who tried to help his country, as someone who never shirked battle, who realized it was an honor to be an American and tried to live up to the responsibilities of that honor at any personal cost.”
We all know that Jim was far more than just a “guy who tried to help his country”. Jim Stockdale inspired all who served with him and all who serve together today.
Make no mistake … the magnificent young men and women who wear the cloth of our Nation … in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world…have been shaped by the example and legacy of Americans like Admiral Jim Stockdale.
Sibyl, members of the Stockdale family, friends of the family, I’d like to conclude my comments with a very simple but meaningful poem. This is a poem about ships…the sea…and life everlasting.
The Ship of Life
By John T. Baker
Along the shore I spy a ship
As she sets out to sea;
She spreads her sails and sniffs the breeze
And slips away from me.
I watch her fading image shrink,
As she moves on and on,
Until at last she’s but a speck,
Then someone says, “She’s gone.”
Gone where? Gone only from our sight
And from our farewell cries;
That ship will somewhere reappear
To other eager eyes.
Beyond the dim horizon’s rim
Resound the welcome drums,
And while we’re crying, “There she goes!”
They’re shouting, “Here she comes!”
We’re built to cruise for but a while
Upon this trackless sea
Until one day we sail away
Admiral Stockdale…as you depart these shores may the Lord grant you fair winds and following seas as you sail The Ship of Life…Life Everlasting.