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It’s a sacred day to all war veterans. None need to be reminded of the reason why Memorial Day must be commemorated. We don’t just honor those who participated in the most hellacious firefights. We honor the more than 1 million men and women who lost their lives defending America in wars from the Revolution to the global war on terrorism.
No, their deaths did not change the world. And it may be tough for some to justify its meaning at all. But there is a greater meaning to it. Perhaps many of the shipmate’s deaths that I remember over 33 years in the U.S. Navy did not change the world. But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools, which have been built that he will walk his streets not worried about whether or not his leader’s henchmen are going to come and kidnap him. He will grow into a fine man who will pursue every opportunity his heart could desire. He will have the gift of freedom, which many Americans have enjoyed for so long. Personally, if a shipmate’s death buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.
Far too often, the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms all Americans enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew. That’s why they are all collectively remembered on one special day.
This should be regarded as a civic obligation. For this is a national debt that can only be truly repaid by individual Americans. By honoring the nations war dead, we preserve their memory and thus their service and sacrifice.
GI’s do not choose where they serve or what foreign policy they must enforce. The death of a sailor in the Persian Gulf is every bit as important as a Marine killed in the Pacific during WW II. Such distinctions are irrelevant.
As America’s war vets fast disappear from society’s notice, there are fewer and fewer standard bearers left to carry the torch of remembrance. Such traditions will live on only if there is a vibrant movement to which that torch can be passed.
Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day. The day is exclusively for honoring those who died serving in uniform during wartime.
Perhaps the most profound tribute of all was made on the first national memorial observance in May 1868 by then Gen. James A. Garfield when he said: “They summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and virtue.”