Memorial Day (Updated and shared)
I remember when I was taught by our teachers about the foundations of our freedoms and liberties as a nation. This year, as in other recent times, crazy people have taken the very lives of our children. This is an evil. We should take caution the killers are not given honor, but called out as the sick people they are. Sadly, too many kids and a few of their teachers will never know how wise our forefathers were to create this great country. Too many have died at the hands of fools and those who are corrupt. Too few of our leaders are real statesmen that are focused on the good of our nation. Many seem to want power at the expense of our people. Our teachers still teach classes of young students in hopes of matriculating new generations of patriots, but the ones we hear most about are focused on self. They cheat, kill, and steal the very hope of this nation. In the past, we knew little of various political systems except that we had only just finished fighting the axis powers. We heard some information about the Holocaust and the rape of Europe. Now we see the world fighting a war that once again kills families and classrooms of children. It is a sad day, but we still hold our hope of a better day.
This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. First called Decoration Day and was begun to remember the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, but it soon grew in purpose to become a time for us to pause and remember all of those who have passed before us in defense of this nation. Now, it also includes those who were not veterans, but served in other ways to preserve our way of life. There have been men and women who worked in factories, delivered the mail, and prayed for the lives and liberties as our troops fought in various foreign wars. There were schoolteachers, those in the medical field, and those growing food, working on a switchboard, and driving trucks to ship supplies and armaments for the troops. There were chaplains that helped families with their losses, and people selling war bonds. Wars, one way or the other, affect nearly everyone. Our young service men and women have been important in maintaining the precious gift of freedom. We owe them the honor they have earned. Even when ‘rights’ are abused or used to spread negative messages, we are a rare nation that understands and will die for the right of freedom of expression. As a result, we continue to pursue happiness and a life free of tyranny. While some of those rights are at risk every day, they are still worth the fight.
When growing up in that sweet town, I sometimes went up on Pine Hill to visit the graves of those who had passed. Some were soldiers and sailors, and others died just trying to raise a family. I liked to read the carvings on the tombstones. Some of those dates seemed to be long ago in my sight. I tried to picture how they lived and how they found ways to contribute to our civilization. If I saw an adult, I would respectfully ask them for stories of the men and women buried there. I remember the sadness in their faces as they placed fresh flowers next to the gravestones. Most church yards out in the county had markers of their members who were buried there. In fact, many of the hilltops around the county were topped with family graveyards, some overgrown, some well maintained. When visiting these places and those grand cemeteries, such as Arlington National Cemetery, with the lowest and highest ranking of our servicemen, we can stand proudly for the hope these lives represent. It is a time to remove our caps, bow our heads and come to terms that we will be there ourselves, soon enough.
When it’s my turn to kick off, or kick the bucket, there is already a niche in a nearby national cemetery that will house my remains and those of my wife. Someone will blow a bugle and fold a flag to be displayed for my family to fly. I grew up in an era when our country was recovering from the deaths of so many of our young men who died in Europe and the Pacific. I knew some of the vets who came back, but I was too young to ever meet the ones who didn’t. Some were foot soldiers, and others were sailors, or airmen. The county suffered greatly with the losses, I’m sure. All were precious to friends and family, and those who walked with them. We know something about the emptiness that results when another chair is vacated, and dark clouds gather about ones we have lost. We respect the past, as well we should.
I remember attending a baseball game that honored our military. Before the game, a military band played several songs, one representing each branch of service. Veterans were asked to stand when ‘their song’ was played. All around me grey-haired men and the young alike stood to take the salute. A group of ‘flag’ officers representing each branch, were there. One general officer swore in a squad of new recruits as shivers hushed through the crowd. These young recruits stood at attention. Soon enough they may be in harm’s way. Just before the game ball was thrown, the band struck up the National Anthem. Again, tears rolled down our cheeks as we all did our best to stand at attention and hold our hands over our hearts, proud to be an American.
Even as a child I noticed that when the flag went by during a parade that people knew to remove their hats and cover their hearts. Even little kids learned to be still and show respect. Some veterans saluted as they remembered other times. By listening to stories over the years I knew some of their memories were good, others not so much. Some couldn’t talk about their experiences, while others came around to share. This is the cost of freedom. The veterans of that day were called the ‘greatest generation,’ but the young men and women dying today are no less great. The sacrifice of our young is a terrible price, but necessary for our freedoms. Because of them we have the hope that our children and the generations to follow will enjoy real liberty.
Our forefathers took amazing risks of life and property to create this nation and the principles of freedom. Freedom is a rare thing on earth, you know. Many would choose to kick down the doors of our country and stomp out those values. Others will infiltrate our government to try to slowly erode those gifts that Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Patrick Henry gave us. We have seen bombings, planes flying into buildings, attempts to poison, the shooting of innocents, and computer attacks on our government and industry. We have real enemies and likely will forever. We can be assured that all the way from Bunker Hill to the current mid-eastern battles, our young men and women are still standing up to defend those basic principles. It is the next generation’s hope that the pursuit of happiness and prosperity will continue.
Who knows when it will be our turn to be carried to our graves under a display of flowers, or beneath the flag we were honored to serve? On Memorial Day, at three in the afternoon, we should bow our heads and remember the people who made this country great and worth fighting for. Let us not reward those who stole innocent lives and have brought so much sorrow to so many. Let the church bells toll again in honor of those who have honorably gone before us. We must be grateful that others stood up and have done their part to keep this nation strong. Many are doing that all around the world. Thank them and honor them as you can. Remember, pause at 3:00 Monday afternoon and say a prayer of gratefulness to those who have given their all to save this great nation.