Speaking at Havelock’s Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, Tom Ritchie admitted to the difficulty of his task.

“Memorial Day — that’s an ocean into a thimble, is it not?” said Ritche, who retired from the Air Force. “How do you begin to encapsulate what you’re going to say about Memorial Day?”

Dozens of people filed inside the Havelock Tourist and Event Center on Monday to mark Memorial Day. The Knights of Columbus Angelo Batista Assembly No. 2894 put on the ceremony, moved inside because of rain. Craven County’s other Memorial Day Ceremony, outside at the National Cemetery in New Bern, had to be canceled.

The ceremony included placement of wreaths, the playing of “Taps” and singing of “God Bless America.” Also included was a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action tribute.

With the sound of rain on the roof, Ritchie spoke of Memorial Day and why it should be important.

“Today is about those who gave all,” he said. “We know them. They’re family members. And they gave their all.

“But it’s a little bit more than just remembering them, like remembering to study for a test or remembering to take out the garbage. It’s a sacred thing we do today, to remember these fallen dead.”

In a speech that included references to Jesus, Abraham Lincoln and Socrates, Ritchie said “the why” behind Memorial Day should not be the question people ask.

“It’s not why do we celebrate Memorial Day. It’s why would a person lay down their life for our good,” Ritchie said.

He answered his question with one word — freedom.

“At the core and essence of it all, it comes from God,” Ritchie said of the concept of freedom. “It’s so important that we understand that as free people, we want to give that freedom to the people next to us. We want to protect that freedom for the person that’s by our side.

“Those of us who are called to professional arms, that noblest thing that we could have done, we understand that we are protecting the freedoms of people, and that freedom is so precious because it is a gift from God, so precious that we are willing to go ahead and give our everything to protect that freedom and pass that freedom on to the person next to us. How absolutely wonderful is that.

“There’s not a country in the world; there’s not a culture in the history of humankind that can go ahead and make that boast — that we pass our freedoms on to each other and to future generations.”

Ritchie concluded his speech emphatically, drawing applause from those in attendance.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for all men and women that gave their all, that understood what was on the line that they gave their all. And finally, thank God, thank God, thank God for the United States of America.”