Got everything done on your to-do list? Forgetting anything? Anything at all?
Some people consider Memorial Day to be our most important national holiday, but to others, it's nothing but another three-day weekend filled with sales and cook-outs.
John Moon, the former commander-in-chief of the VFW, said
Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. America's collective consciousness demands that all citizens recall and be aware of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime. Far too often, the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms Americans enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew. That's why they are all collectively remembered for one special day.
A memorial is something that keeps remembrance alive. Let's all of us, in the midst of our cooking out, and in the midst of our shopping and having a grand old time this weekend, remember all of those men and women who made the supreme sacrifice.
Those are the four words engraved on the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. And here is a poem with that same title, "Freedom is Not Free," written in 1988 by Air Force ROTC Cadet Major Kelly Strong:
I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom is not free.
I heard the sound of "taps" one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That "taps" had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom is not free.
What a bonehead! the captain thought.
Horns were honking, and the captain, as well as everyone else behind him, were fuming. Still, the private kept going, with his BDUs soaked and plastered to his skin. He ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground, and set it back up again. Then he came to attention and saluted, before running back to his car and driving off.
The captain later said, "That soldier, whose name I'll never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures. That simple salute - that simple act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag - encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said I will never forget. I will keep the faith. I will keep the mission. I am an American soldier."
We may not be soldiers, but the least we can do is remember them, a very small effort for those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. The picture above is of the familiar Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., but most states also have memorials in honor of our Vietnam vets. The one in Springfield, Illinois, includes the following words: To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace.
One last comment about Memorial Day. It also happens to be my brother's birthday. He's a retired Marine, who served multiple tours of duty in Vietnam. So to him, I wish a very happy birthday, as well as gratitude and peace.
|Happy Birthday, big brother. Semper fi|
Enjoy your three-day weekend, all. Until next time, please take care of yourselves. And each other.