Regular readers of this space know that each year since the Free State Foundation's founding in 2006, I have written a special Memorial Day message. Over the years, I've been gratified to receive many positive responses. But occasionally I am asked "Why?" As in, why does the leader of a think tank largely, but not exclusively, focused on communications and Internet policy from a free market, property rights, and rule of law perspective take time to write and distribute a Memorial Day message?
Good question, with an easy answer: Because as important as I know market-oriented communications policy and protection of property rights are, I also know there are more important things.
Remembering, with proper reverence, those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms is one of those things. So, if one more message, or one with a different emphasis, helps us – including me – to make sure to take time to remember, I happily take pen to paper (so to speak).
That said, having written six Memorial Day messages, I admit it gets more difficult each year to present a new or distinctive one. (This is true for Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day too!) It's not that there are not still wars being waged in faraway places with fresh sacrifices by our brave soldiers. Rather, it is that the meaning of Memorial Day is surely timeless and unchanging in the sense that memory, remembrance, and honor, properly accorded, are timeless and unchanging.
In reading over the past messages, I still find the words of Civil War veteran and future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, delivered in a Memorial Day address in 1884 in Keane, New Hampshire, particularly stirring, and, ultimately, uplifting:"Such hearts--ah me, how many!--were stilled twenty years ago; and to us who remain behind is left this day of memories. Every year--in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life--there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death. Year after year lovers wandering under the apple trees and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier's grave. Year after year the comrades of the dead follow, with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march--honor and grief from us who stand almost alone, and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away.
But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death--of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will."
And, of course, Lincoln's words spoken on the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg are always fitting for Memorial Day.
"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."Here at the Free State Foundation, we believe that free market, limited government, and rule of law principles are foundational prerequisites to maintaining the freedom of which Lincoln spoke and for which so many of our countrymen have paid with their lives.
As we remember those who have paid the ultimate price, and those who continue to serve, best wishes to you for a safe and contemplative Memorial Day!