I will confess – sometimes I think I forget way more than I remember. But remembering things is important – like where I put the car keys or the remote or remembering someone’s birthday or an anniversary or an appointment. Forget any of these things and their importance becomes all too apparent. We remember so that we don’t forget. Ok, that seems so obvious. But why do we not want to forget? Because,if I lose my memory, I don’t know who I am anymore. I have no sense of identity. My memories tell me where I’ve been, what lessons I’ve learned thus far, and inform where I’m headed.
Without memory, I have no past, so I can’t find my place in the present and I lack memory’s wisdom to walk beside me into the future. Our country even has a day for remembering – Memorial Day. It is a day to remember our nation’s history and specifically to remember those that gave their lives over the years in our nation’s defense. Although Memorial Day did not become an official, national holiday until 1971, it has been observed as Decoration Day since the late 1860’s. It began as a way to honor those soldiers who had lost their lives during the Civil War by decorating their graves with flowers. Today, on Memorial Day, we honor all those who have died in our nation’s service.
John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Over the past couple of centuries, countless men and women have laid down their lives for this country. They have given the ultimate sacrifice for you and for me as citizens of this country – a country they fought hard to protect and to defend. A country Abraham Lincoln wondered if would survive the internal conflict which threatened to tear it apart at the time he spoke these words,
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” (Gettysburg Address)
Those words were uttered November 19th, 1863. Our nation has endured and even though “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”, we find ourselves today, still at war with ourselves as well as with other nations. Freedom, it seems, is something which requires constant vigilance. Milton Friedman in his essay, “The Fragility of Freedom” stated,
“Freedom is very far from being the natural state of mankind; on the contrary, it is an extraordinarily unusual situation. If one looks back through history, in any place on the globe, one finds that the natural state of mankind in most periods in history has been tyranny and misery.”
Why is it so important to remember the sacrifices of those who have given their lives so that we might live in freedom? Because freedom is a fragile, fleeting thing that must be protected, practiced, proclaimed, celebrated and cherished. Today, how can we take for granted something so valuable that people give their very lives in exchange for it? The least we can do is to safe guard and continue to fight for the freedoms that fellow Americans have given their lives defending. This is a day to remember their sacrifices and to gratefully cherish our freedoms.
We must carry on their fight. Ronald Reagan warned us when he said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Patrick Henry’s words “give me liberty or give me death”, echo still. From the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iran, Afghanistan, to today’s continuing conflicts – tyranny is the enemy, freedom the goal. Our founding fathers were pursuing freedom when they came here. We are pursuing her still to this day. Freedom’s fate is in our hands at present. Will we defend and protect her or will we watch her be taken from us without a word of protest? Do we no longer think her worth the effort, the risk, the sacrifice?
These words of John McCrae from his poem, “In Flanders Fields” say it all,
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row, . . . We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie, in Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.”
The torch is in our hands today. The torch that burns with the light of Freedom. So many have given their lives to keep Freedom alive. We cannot let her light go out now. If Freedom’s light fails, the world goes dark. Tyranny takes root in the dark. But in Freedom’s light grow liberty, life, prosperity and the pursuit of dreams. Today, we remember the sacrifices of the men and women who loved this country enough to die for her. We remember so that we do not forget – so that we do not forget at what cost our freedom has been purchased. We honor their sacrifice by continuing to fight for and protect the freedoms they fought for so long ago and so very recently. We honor their sacrifice by loving this country which they died serving and protecting. It is up to us to be sure that they did not die in vain.
Memorial Day is our day to remember – so that we do not forget. so that we do not forget who we are or how we got here – we can take courage and inspiration from those who have gone before us, even as we remember them and honor them on this day set aside specifically for this purpose. We don’t say it often enough, but –
from a grateful nation and from my heart, thank you –
sincerely, Grace Day