For decades, Americans have honored their war dead during special ceremonies aptly dubbed Memorial Day.
Once known as Decoration Day, this holiday, celebrated this weekend — though its official recognition is on Monday — is far more than just a three-day reprieve from work and many of the responsibilities we undertake. It is a time of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service, for those who have offered the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy our lives freely.
For freedom, you see, was never free. We sometimes forget that fact, but we can live free only because of the sacrifices of those we honor today.
In years past, Memorial Days have been celebrated with all the gusto now reserved for Fourth of July and other special holidays. There have been parades and speeches, thousands of flying flags and moments of silence.
Today, many of those observances have fallen by the wayside. The traditional observance of Memorial Day has been relegated to our memories, and the day generally passes with limited — and poorly attended — services. The reasons we celebrate this special day are generally hidden in the recesses of our mind.
Let’s change that now. Let’s offer the respect deserved to those we honor on Memorial Day, the men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country.
In years past, we respected them in our own way, appreciated the sacrifices they made, but we really didn’t understand just how much they gave in order for the rest of us to sleep well at night, never giving thought to an attack as gruesome as the one waged at Pearl Harbor or of the tragedy brought upon our country by terrorists nearly 13 years ago.
But things should be different.
Our fellow Americans have been killed battling for the freedoms that terrorists would so dearly love to take from us, and suddenly it all becomes clear again – the sacrifice, the struggle, the willingness to give of self to defend our country, our rights and all the things we have come to take for granted.
All of a sudden, the uniforms worn by our country’s service men and women take on a new meaning, have an added respect.
Today we salute them all. The men and women who have given their lives throughout history to protect ours, who have placed their bodies in front of grenades, bayonets, land mines and guided missiles all in the name of America, all in the name of freedom.
There are no words, there are no memorials that can offer all the respect, all the heartfelt thanks, all the tears and all the gratitude that the men and women who have protected our country since America was born deserve.
The best we can do is never forget, to change our priorities so that we might take a few minutes Monday and honor them.
In silent prayer today, we offer thanks to all the countless faces of brave men and women who forever will be recognized as America’s heroes, her defenders and our protectors.
And, while we know as long as there are wars, there will be war dead, we continue to pray that a lasting peace can be found so that no more blood will have to be shed in defense of that we hold dear.