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Memorial Day
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Joseph Alvin Sawyer, Sr Joseph Alvin Sawyer, Sr
Photo courtesy of the Sawyer family
On Memorial Day, 1983 in Liberty, Indiana, Joseph Alvin Sawyer, Sr.gave the annual speech honoring veterans to citizens and veterans assembled on the courthouse lawn in the center of town. Sawyer had been a sergeant and paratrooper in the Army during World War II. He'd moved in 1948 to the small farming community in eastern Indiana to raise his family. His wife and children watched with particular pride because he was the first African-American veteran asked to speak on Memorial Day.

His daughter, Joanne SawyerKnoll of Escondido, California,called our Quest for Sound line to tell us about the speech. His sons, Joseph Sawyer, Jr. and Russell Sawyer, helped arrange for us to hear it through NPR member station KQED in San Francisco.

Joseph Sawyer talks about the responsibility and debt the citizenry owes to veterans for their sacrifice to make a better world. In her message, Joanne SawyerKnoll said the speech expressed "who my father was and what drove him in his quest for honesty and integrity throughout his life." Mr. Sawyer died in July, 1983, just two months after making this speech.


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