Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation’s gratitude—the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

Today is the day we honor those who have given their lives in defense of our country. So far just this year, 171 soldiers have paid that price in Afghanistan or Iraq – a far lower number than we’ve had in recent years, but each of those soldiers has a family and friends they left behind. Today we not only honor their memories, but reach out to support those they left behind. If you aren’t able to personally lend a hand, then perhaps you might consider donating to a charity, such as Fisher House or the National Military Family Association.

And in comment regarding the scandal du jour, I don’t think that Obama’s choice to skip the Arlington memorial today is wise or particularly respectful; however, it should be noted that he is not the first President to do so (even Reagan missed it once, although he had a good reason), and that he did lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns last year on Memorial Day. Can we not take a single day off from endlessly haranguing each other over politics to come together for a moment in memory of those who’ve allowed us the right to do so?

I will leave you with a fitting poem, Memorial Day, by Edward Guest:

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day,
Is not a rose wreath, white and red,
In memory of the blood they shed;
It is to stand beside each mound,
Each couch of consecrated ground,
And pledge ourselves as warriors true
Unto the work they died to do.

Into God’s valleys where they lie
At rest, beneath the open sky,
Triumphant now o’er every foe,
As living tributes let us go.
No wreath of rose or immortelles
Or spoken word or tolling bells
Will do to-day, unless we give
Our pledge that liberty shall live.

Our hearts must be the roses red
We place above our hero dead;
To-day beside their graves we must
Renew allegiance to their trust;
Must bare our heads and humbly say
We hold the Flag as dear as they,
And stand, as once they stood, to die
To keep the Stars and Stripes on high.

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day
Is not of speech or roses red,
But living, throbbing hearts instead,
That shall renew the pledge they sealed
With death upon the battlefield:
That freedom’s flag shall bear no stain
And free men wear no tyrant’s chain.

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