Memorial Day Pledge

It  is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —  that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for  which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve  that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall  have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people,  for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln

I have always loved Memorial Day.  A simple holiday, it unofficially marks the beginning of Summer in the US.  Fun and frolic marks the long weekend.  In many places school has ended or will be ending, and families are getting into vacation mode.  In my lifetime I have always been able to enjoy the holiday in peace and freedom, and that is due to the men the holiday honors.

Our war dead, stretching from the Revolution to the most recent skirmishes in Afghanistan and Iraq, I wonder what they make of all this.  Varying reactions no doubt, as varied as the men who died in our wars.  I assume that most of them wouldn’t begrudge people having fun, or gathering with their families.  During their lives almost all them liked having fun and loved their families.  Parting from loved ones is always a terrible burden on anyone who has gone to war, and today we remember those who never came back to their families. Thus I assume that the fun aspect of the weekend would not offend most of them, but rather please them.  However, Memorial Day is so much more than that.

The pain of a family, especially parents and spouses, who lose someone in a war is an agony that only time can dim but can never end.  Those of us who have fortunately not suffered such a loss can only imagine the grief and pain.  The least we can do for those families, and for their dead, is what I call the Memorial Day Pledge, taken from the last sentence of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

It  is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —  that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for  which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve  that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall  have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people,  for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Never should our war dead die in vain.  Never should our troops be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice unless the nation is ready to win the conflict they are fighting in.  Never again should politicians play with war, cheering it at the beginning and then quickly running for cover when the going gets tough.  If the nation is unwilling to fight to win, no matter the cost, then it is better not to get involved in a conflict.  Anything less is a betrayal of every man who dies in battle.

Of course the circumstances of the war in which they fell in no way takes away from either the valor of our war dead or the value of their sacrifice.  We owe them and all our war dead a debt we can never repay.  Living Lincoln’s words each day is the best remembrance we can have for the men who died to ensure that we remained free and safe here at home.

Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.

Simonides

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Published in: on May 29, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Memorial Day Pledge  
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