Memorial day 2016 has passed. The picnics and barbecues are over. The wreath laying ceremonies have been completed. Many Americans, perhaps more in recent years keep Memorial Day sacred, and well they should. Many, many American heroes left their homes for war and never returned. They gave the ultimate sacrifice. The loved ones they left behind morn their loss. From that darkest day, and especially on Memorial Day, they are reminded that their loved ones gave their lives that we could be free. Our freedom, liberty, democracy are those ideals that they gave their lives for. Their deaths are not considered in vain, we say, because of these gifts their sacrifice has secured for us. In many ways, this is a distinction not shared by all fallen warriors throughout history, as not all of the fallen died for these things. They fought for king and country, maybe to protect their families, but nothing more noble than that. Will they day ever come that Americans of some future era, in some future conflict fight for little more?
The NAZI’s did not fight for freedom, quite the opposite. The Russians fought for Rodina, the motherland and their comrades. Napoleon won scores of battles, his soldiers won victory after victory for the glory of France all across Europe, and freed nary a soul from oppression in the process. Japan spent a century at war during the middle ages, the samurai fought for honor and for their lord, but never for liberty. What of the next generation of Americans? Will the era of fighting for real freedom have ended?
One by one our liberties have fallen or are in danger of falling by the wayside—our right to privacy traded for security, our right to free speech ceded to militant progressives at the college campus, the rights of the states to self-governance ground into nothingness by an overbearing federal government. The courts now dictate which religious customs we are free to follow. Likewise, the Supreme Court has determined that Americans don’t have the right to choose their own healthcare, or none at all. Thanks to EPA regulations, farmers and ranchers are not free to manage their land as they see fit. The examples go on and on. If this is where we are now at this rate, imagine how little liberty there will be left for our brave service members serving in the not-so-distant future will actually to give their lives for.
What then will we tell the families of future fallen warriors? Will they be told their loved ones died for freedom? Perhaps, if the enemy they fought against has markedly less freedom even then us. It certainly wouldn’t, couldn’t be said that they died for the same freedom our Revolutionary War, Civil War Union soldiers, or WWII heroes did. The surviving family members might be consoled by the fact that their loved ones died for their county, for honor, even to protect them, but not freedom as once existed on this continent. On that sad day, our fallen will make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of nationalism, the homeland, perhaps even Socialism. On that day, may it never come, our war dead will have given their last breath for no more a cause than a piece of land, some natural resources, or a border on a map. Memorial Day will be a much different day, a day to mourn more than the loss of American heroes, but of a free country that once existed that was worthy of their sacrifice.
Many have made the ultimate sacrifice for us to live in freedom. Do not squander it. Do not sell it cheaply. Let us strive to be worthy of their sacrifice. This is what we owe them, that and our eternal gratitude.
When I was younger, Memorial Day was just another holiday, another day off from school or from work. It was the Indy 500 and barbeques. It’s not that I wasn’t patriotic, I was, but even though I knew that people had died for my country, the idea of a fallen hero was still an abstract. All of my uncles who served in WWII had come back, and other than them I knew very few people personally who served in any shooting war. Even in the Army I met very few combat vets, the few I did were almost all in Vietnam. Almost no one from my generation had ever been killed in combat. Then September 11th happened. Shortly after, we were at war again and shortly after that, persons from my generation and younger were making the ultimate sacrifice. I guess at that point I began to understand the true meaning of Memorial Day.
And so I suppose it is, that we don’t really understand what it is we’re celebrating, until such point as the celebration becomes second to our memories and silent reflection. Some though, have no personal connection to this holiday. It is still for them, an abstract notion of someone else’s sacrifice, something they are but vaguely aware of. Does it anger me? No, I was like them, maybe it takes knowing someone who did not come back to appreciate the day. Don’t get me wrong, barbeques are great, races are great, being with family and friends is great. A day off from work is always welcome. It’s a celebration of life that other have earned for us. Honoring our fallen countrymen, even for a moment on one day a year helps us to appreciate all we have as a free people.