This is the day our nation remembers its sons and daughters who died while in the military service. Although celebrated since 1866, it didn’t become a national holiday until 1967. First called Decoration Day, it’s alternative name, Memorial Day, was first used in 1882.
Commemoration takes many forms: placing flags on military graves, a moment of remembrance nationwide, the flying of flags at half-mast, parades honoring the dead and the veteran, a national concert, picnics, family gatherings, and sporting events such as the running of the Indianapolis 500. The Veterans of Foreign Wars sell paper poppies to promote remembrance; John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields, forever ties the image of the poppy to Memorial Day.
But do we remember our warriors’ sacrifices at any other time? Do we stop during the course of our busy days and mentally thank them for our freedoms. Do we care how our warriors are treated and cared for when they return, whether dead or alive? Do we attend our local government meetings to see how, and if, they are protecting and advancing those freedoms our warriors paid for with their blood and sweat and tears? Do we do that simplest of all tasks of thankfulness – voting?
It is the soldier and the sailor, not the reporter
who has given us the freedom of the press,
It is the soldier and the sailor, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech,
It is the soldier and the sailor, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us freedom to demonstrate,
It is the soldier and the sailor,
who salutes the flag
Who serves beneath the flag
Who’s coffin is draped by the flag
Who allows the protester to burn our flag.
-Father Denis Edward O’Brien, USMC
Most of us value our nation and the wonderful life it provides and the freedoms it protects to allow us to do and say pretty much exactly what we want. Most of us are good citizens. We decorate our cars and our T-shirts with catchy slogans like “Home of the Free, Because of the Brave”. But sometimes even with the slogans and even amid all the activity of the various Memorial Day festivities, we forget that our warriors willingly placed, and continue to place, themselves in positions of danger to keep our United States of America strong and safe and solvent and free.
We sleep here in obedience to law,
When duty called, we came
When country called, we died.
-Engraved on the state of Georgia’s statue
to its Confederate Dead, Antietam Battlefield
In gratitude, this Memorial Day 2010, we remember –