Monday, May 25, 2009

My thoughts on Memorial Day

America is rich with the spirit of sacrifice.  It is a nation whose citizens have bled on battlefields the world over for the profit of all people.  It is a land where we are free to pursue religious freedom, happiness, and growth – to live safely and fully.  Memorial Day is a unique national holiday.  If not the most important national day of patriotic observance, it can certainly be argued as the most solemn day we set aside for recognition.

Memorial Day is but one day of a year of days when we revisit history, tracing the journey that great Americans have traveled to assure our nation's standing as a powerful and prosperous Democracy.  On Memorial Day we try to imagine how so many brave men and women found the uncommon courage to die for our advantage, for generations of people they'd never know.

Our emotions cover the opposing spectrums of both gratitude and sorrow as we honor those who died in pursuit of our freedom.  Proudly, and with deep appreciation, we celebrate the rewards begotten through the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen.  Because of their inherent selfless devotion to duty, honor, country and God, we are both afforded and privileged to enjoy the very freedoms that are the envy of the world.

Celebration and sadness; victory and death; hope and helplessness; relief and rage.  These are the conflicting emotions we feel.  They are emotions that have become embedded in our history, for brave Americans have been buying our freedom and protecting our interests with their lives in wars and conflicts since the first colonial soldiers took up arms in 1775. 

More than one million Americans have died fighting for the independence we enjoy today.  Each of those individuals was a loved one cherished by family and friends.  Each was a tragic loss to his or her community and to our nation.  It should be obvious to every American that this profound sacrifice deserves much more appreciation than we could possibly demonstrate on one day a year.  But is it?  

Memorial Day is a day of personal sorrow for those who have lost loved ones in uniform.  But it is also a day for the nation to mourn, to show our collective pride, and to illustrate our appreciation for this almost unbearable sacrifice.  We honor these brave warriors by not forgetting them.  We are to honor them by not taking for granted what they did for us.  All too often, many ignore this, or just merely do not understand the gravity of it all.  

The renowned jurist and Civil War veteran Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., believed that this holiday was the most sacred day of the year.  Memorial Day, he declared should have a meaning for all Americans.  He asked people not to conclude the holiday with sad thoughts of the passing our heroes, but rather with thoughts of their legacy, of the life that was made possible by their commitment and their pain.

The words that are found at the Arlington National Cemetery, where some of our heroes are interred, also speak volumes about the bravery and valor of the men and women who risked their lives for our nation.  These are the words.

"Not for fame or reward, not for place or rank, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all and died."

May the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country live forever in our memories.  May we honor them by doing everything we can to protect freedom for future generations, whenever, and wherever, it is threatened.

I wish you all a safe and happy holiday and salute my fellow military compatriots for your commitment to better our nation--the land of the free and home of the brave.   


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