(This memorial presentation was offered by Samuel D. Jackson at the Celebration of Life for Jeff Dallas, USMA 1985, in Columbus, OH on 17 February 2016 in the presence of Jeff's family, Classmates of USMA 1985, colleagues of the Ohio State Patrol, and friends.)
I am humbled and privileged to stand where a thousand others could stand to pay honor and tribute to my West Point classmate Jeff Dallas. Rarely does a human being’s journey on earth command such notice, such regard and such respect. Jeff and I served in different companies and regiments during our West Point experience, but his stature and bearing command one’s attention just as his smile, warmth and humility commanded one’s affection.
It is regretful that it is often only in the death of a loved one that the true breadth and depth of the impact of their lives becomes known. When the news of Jeff’s earthly departure spread among the members of our class, countless spontaneous accounts of acts of Jeff’s kindness, help and support began to surface. They seemed to come to light by the hour with classmate after classmate sharing story after story of how years after our time spent as cadets, Jeff had gone beyond what was hoped for or expected to embrace, encourage and assist a classmate, family member or connected friend with an act of service, assistance and love.
Perhaps what is most clear about Jeff from the day he arrived at West Point until his far too soon appointment with eternity is his determination to make the most of the opportunities afforded him in this life. He made the most of the gifts, talents and abilities given him and sought EVERY opportunity to use those gifts with joy, courage, excellence and consistency.
There are many words that could describe this wonderful man we had the privilege to know. Among those that touch my heart most deeply when I think of Jeff are these:
Classmate, Husband, Father, Friend, Brother. Nevertheless, as one whose own life was forever transformed by a once in a lifetime experience along the banks of the Hudson River, 3 magnificent words will always define Jeff, as they have defined every honorable person who has had an encounter with this esteemed and hallowed place: Those three words encapsulate the essence of who Jeff is and the reasons we stand together today to celebrate his life – Duty, Honor, Country.
These words are not just a motto nor are they a sentimental reflection we call upon during times of solemnity and grief. They represent the core convictions of people like Jeff, who believe they were placed on this planet for something more self-fulfillment, and that they were born with the purpose of serving a greater cause – a greater good that by the force of its importance would outlive them even when their work was done.
We celebrate Jeff’s exemplary life devoted to his DUTY! Duty recognizes one’s obligations - obligations not seen as burdens of performance, but rather embraced as opportunities to serve the needs of the times beyond oneself, beyond personal fulfilment, and beyond personal recognition. Though it be in obscurity and self-denial, duty is fulfilled that others might benefit and that the nation and goodness might live.
We pay homage to Jeff’s HONOR! Honor stands as the pillar of virtue to which we must cling and the virtue that demands that we always do what is right! We live with honor not out of self-promotion or self-glorification, but from a steely-eyed commitment to righteousness and all that is good, so that evil will not prevail and so that justice might reign supreme.
We remember Jeff’s excellent service to his COUNTRY! Our affection for this nation is not a cold acknowledgment of territorial borders but a burning, soul-deep love for and allegiance to the PEOPLE of this nation comingled with an unquenchable desire to serve and protect the inhabitants of our land all the days of our lives.
These 3 HOLY words were completely and powerfully fulfilled in an amazing and wonderful man named Jeffrey Dallas – my classmate. Let us honor him by remembering the standard of service he has exemplified for us and by pursuing the accolade he now has received from the One Who made Him and gave him to us. Let it be said - WELL DONE!!!