Commentary on the purpose and importance of this holiday.
Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer; a reminder to kids that the drudgery of another school year is nearly over, and a day of picnics and family outings. Too often, we get so caught up in the traditions of a holiday that we forget the reason for observing it in the first place. In doing so, we forfeit something valuable.
A grateful people is a happy people. We do well to remember that the freedom we enjoy and regularly take for granted, is not some exclusive right due to us by birth or heritage. The freedom that we exercise today, is a gift to us purchased by the sacrifices of others. Many before us willingly paid in dollars and blood, that we might live free. We owe them our thanks, our devotion, and our honor. The way we demonstrate whether or not we value the dead, is found in how we conduct our lives today.
Contrary to the proclamations of some, in a free society such as ours, the choices of individuals and groups of them, affect us all. The self-centered and irresponsible choices of a few necessitate that we enact restrictive laws to protect the masses. Conversely, because of the selfless acts others who have made the choice to defend our freedom, we can choose to pursue other careers, whether they be noble, common, or perverse.
Memorial Day does the dead no good. It exists for the benefit of the living—an opportunity to meditate upon the asking price of freedom. That price is the very lives of ordinary men and women who frequently do extraordinary feats on our behalf.
Regardless of our feelings about a national act of belligerence, the men and women of the Armed Forces are servants following our orders passed down through the chain of command. We wouldn’t want it any other way. As a general rule, our generation doesn’t have a very good track record of honoring anyone other than ourselves. Tragically, many Viet Nam War veterans returned home physically broken and dispirited, only to be spit upon and reviled by those who sent them. May we never again, elect as president, another jackleg politician who can be quoted as saying that he “loathes the military.”
We should all be grateful that we have in President Bush, a man who understands the nature of military service, and who trembles at the prospect of sending soldiers, sailors, and airmen into armed conflict. Such a man will not be prone to issue military orders lightly or for political purposes.
Please join me in offering thanks and encouragement to every member of the Armed Forces that you know. And then, honor the past heroes of war—fathers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, by living lives worthy of their sacrifices.
We can begin by making good products, writing good words, playing beautiful music, and loving one another without shame or restraint. In doing so, we will build living memorials to those whose debt we can never repay.