Although there are hot spots of trouble around the world today, we live in peace and security because men and women sacrificed their lives that this country might endure. General Norman Schwarzkopf once observed, “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”
On this last Monday in May, we remember all the men and women who were ordered into battle never to return. We remember the fallen from all our wars. We do not celebrate war, but we celebrate those men and women who met the ultimate choice in war. We rely on these men and women as much today as we did in the past. “In today’s world, some think Memorial Day is solely dedicated to the fallen from decades-old wars,” an article in Military Times notes. “While the sacrifices made by service members in all wars must be remembered, Memorial Day needs to be a respectfully recognized holiday for all Americans — now and in years to come. There is a potent message in the expression ‘Freedom is not free,’ and in our post 9/11 world, personal freedoms can’t be taken for granted. All currently serving military personnel contribute in some way to protecting our freedoms; some pay dearly. Memorial Day is for honoring those who have recently died, too.”
Indeed, in York County Pennsylvania, this Memorial Day will be particularly tough for the families of two U.S. Marines, Sgt. Benjamin Hines and Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, who lost their lives in a roadside bombing on April 8. They are the latest in a long line of men and women who have put country above self. They will, alas, not be the last, but will always represent what is most courageous and honorable and the values without which we will not continue.
Memorial Day falls at a lovely time of the year. It grew out of the custom of decorating the graves of those who died in the Civil War, by both sides, and it’s been suggested that the choice of the date was influenced by the blooming of flowers. So enjoy the parades and barbecues but don’t forget to be grateful. And hopeful. That Memorial Day grew out of a custom that came out of the most tragic and divisive epoch in our history should give us hope that we can heal the divisions that currently beset us. We owe so much to the courage of heroes, and we should never let them down.