In many ways, all we really do in life is make memories – for ourselves and others. That which is not memorable is almost as if it did not occur or matter at all. Memorial Day is not a “holiday” as much as a reminder to remember – especially those who have died in “service” to us. Regardless of your political opinion, what your past experience was, or how the people in uniform are (mis)used, there is a reason why those in our military/armed forces are considered as “serving” – and why a holiday in their honor is deserving.
Please take at least a moment this Memorial Day to think about, reflect upon, and honor all those who have sacrificed on our behalf. It is not really what they may have died for that matters as much as what YOU and I can/choose to live for from now on (as a result).
I encourage you to consciously create positive memories for those around you. Make YOUR words and actions as impactful and memorable as you can. What you say and do matters more than you may realize. What and how you and others remember what you say and do may matter even more. CHOOSE your memories – especially those you’d like others to have of you. Life is too short and precious to NOT focus on (making) as many “good” memories as we can – this Memorial Day (and for the rest of your life).
Below are a few excerpts I saved from previous Memorial Days:
- Since 1868, Americans have celebrated Memorial Day to honor those who fought and died to preserve our freedom. We set aside one day each year to pause and reflect on the debt of gratitude we owe to the brave patriots who stood in the breach when the defense of liberty demanded the ultimate sacrifice.
Perhaps President John F. Kennedy captured the spirit of this holiday best when he said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” By honoring the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom, we ensure that their heroic spirit will live on in this new century.
Indeed, this spirit is alive and well in today’s Armed Forces. In the mountains of Bosnia, along the DMZ in Korea, in the rocky Sinai desert, in the skies over Iraq, and the blue waters of the Pacific, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen stand watch – day and night – guarding freedom’s frontier. Today, as in the past, they bear the burdens that make America’s blessings possible for all its citizens.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff and I join every American in honoring those who gave their lives – and all of their tomorrows – so that we might live in peace. We also salute the dedicated men and women of today’s Armed Forces who actively preserve this noble legacy.
-Gen. Henry H. Shelton, USA
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Memorial Day Message for 2001
(Now it is Iraq and not ‘just the skies over Iraq‘ and Afghanistan that needs to be added.)
- The measure of a man may be his willingness to serve his country. The measure of a country may be its willingness to honor those who have served. The willingness with which our young people are willing to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation. ~ George Washington
- Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States.
~ Ronald Reagan
– The Origins of Memorial Day –
- Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans – the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) – established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared it should be May 30. It is believed the date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
The ceremonies centered on the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of General Robert E.Lee. General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant and other Washington officials presided. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.
Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves as well.
Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Georgia, claim the title, as well as Richmond, Virginia. The village of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Illinois, cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866. Carbondale was the wartime home of General Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.
In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York, the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were informal, not community-wide or one-time events.
– The Need for Memorial Day –
(Edited) Notes from a sermon on May 29, 2005 by Steve Lacy, Pastor of The Brook Church, Madison, Alabama (http://www.thebrookchurch.com)
- 1. So we will never forget the great cost of liberty.
We freely enjoy our liberty, but just because it is free to us does not mean it came to us at no cost.
In the Revolutionary War 33,000 soldiers died; in the War of 1812 7,000 soldiers died; in the Mexican War 13,000 perished; during the Civil War 980,000 men died; in the Spanish-American War 4,000 died; in World War I 320,000 U.S. soldiers gave their lives; in World War II 1,078,000 died; in the Korean War 157,000 soldiers perished; during the Vietnam War 111,000 of our men died; in the Gulf War there were 700; and in the War in Iraq there have been over 4,000 deaths. A total of these figures reveals that there have been over 2,700,000 U.S. soldiers who have died over the past two centuries fighting for our country’s freedom and liberty.
2. So we do not take for granted the benefits of liberty.
We have what so few in the world will every have, yet we take it for granted. Like a fish in water, we don’t realize we are surrounded with it till it is removed from us.
3. So we will honor those who have paid the ultimate price of liberty and say thank you to their families.
4. So we will be willing to pay the price for our liberty in the future.
If we dishonor the past, if we devalue the price that has been paid, then we should not be surprised when the day comes and no one is will to go to fight for our liberties and freedoms.
That’s (also) my perspective. What’s yours?
Please take the time to thank any Veterans you remember or encounter during this Memorial holiday!
© 2009 – 2012, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.