By: Jim Gitney | May 31, 2021
I am not going to wish you “Happy Memorial Day”, I am going to wish all of us a “Solemn Memorial Day”.
During this weekend, I have been touched by the thought of Freedom. Over the last 16 months, we have not been “totally” free. We have tasted what it is like to be restricted in our freedoms, reminded of what it must be like for billions of people around the world who can’t enjoy the freedoms we expect and mostly take for granted. The pandemic, like many other attempts to restrict our freedoms is behind us, but not for billions of people around the globe.
From 1775 to today, almost 1,200,000 Americans have died defending our freedom, over half of which died in the civil war over the issue of slavery, which in our definition of “freedom” is unconscionable.
Many years ago, Ronald Reagan said in a speech that I don’t remember, and perhaps never heard:
“I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country.
Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them.
And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice.
Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: the United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom [for] which they died, must endure and prosper.
Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost. It imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we — in a less final, less heroic way — be willing to give of ourselves.
Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life. Well, they didn’t volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization.
And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.
As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation.
And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of young men will ever have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.
Earlier today with the music that we have heard, and that of our National Anthem — I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as our does: Does that flag still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
That is what we must [all ask too].”
Those words touched my core reminding me of the solemnity of today. The solemnity of the ultimate sacrifice of over a million Americans who “gave that right to me”. Yes, as Lee Greenwood put it:
“And I’m proud to be an American,
Where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
Next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.”
We are so lucky to be here in “The land of the Free” and “The Home of the Brave” despite democracy’s messiness. My love and gratitude goes out to the members of my family who “Willingly” spent large portions of their lives serving this country and to the tens of millions of people in this country who are or have served to protect our cherished freedoms.
Wishing all of us a “Solemn Memorial Day”
This entry was posted in Weekend Thought, on May 31, 2021
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