Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

This is the first holiday weekend of summer!  Picnics have been planned.  Millions of people are traveling hundreds of miles to visit family and friends.  The local pools are about to throw open their doors for the hot weather season.  The time most Americans have been waiting for, endless days of warm sunshine, has arrived.

In the midst of this celebration of the welcoming back of summer, we cannot forget to pause this weekend and remember our fallen dead, those who have given their last full measure of devotion so that we may welcome summer in our own way, in freedom and peace.

The original Memorial Day was set aside to honor the fallen dead of the bloodiest American conflict, the Civil War.  Adjutant General John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union Civil War veterans, ordered in a proclamation that, "The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies lie in every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land."  Thus began the observance of what we now call Memorial Day.

In the south, citizens gathered in cemeteries to place flowers and wreaths on the graves of their fallen heroes to honor their memory on what they called Decoration Day.  The southern commemoration was actually held separately from the northern observance until after WWI when congress declared that the entire nation should come together to honor all the nation's war dead on one day.

This weekend, we must remember that while we have peace in the land here at home, a brutal war is still being waged on the deserts of Afghanistan.  Thousands of troops are keeping watch over a tentative peace in Iraq as that country rebuilds.  On the Korean peninsula, thousands of American troops watch on as North Korea rattles it's saber, threatening war on the South.  And in countless outposts throughout the world, young American men and women serve their country, ensuring that peace is the norm rather than the exception.

Memorial Day is a somber occasion.  It is also a sacred occasion because we come together to honor all who have so nobly served.  We celebrate their memories with moments of silence out of respect for the lives they lived and secured for us the freedom to live life as we see fit.  We honor them for their self-sacrifice, leaving family and friends to go into the world to defend those who are too weak to fend for themselves.  We remember the past and are stirred by their stories of heroic bravery in the face of brutality.  We look to the present to see the ever present danger they encounter as new enemies threaten our way of life.  And because so many gave that last full measure of devotion, we can look to the future with hope in our hearts that all will be well because there were countless Americans who came forward to fight for freedom wherever freedom had come under attack. 

Enjoy the weekend.  Get your fill of hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, steaks, and tall cold glasses of lemonade, but do not fail to honor in your own way those who have died so that these weekend celebrations may continue into the future.  We live in uncertain times but one thing is certain.  America has always been the vanguard of freedom.  Thank you to all of you who have served your country!  And may God bless those who did give "their last full measure of devotion."