Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

This Memorial Day message marks the eleventh consecutive one – the beginning of the second decade’s worth, I suppose. As important as I might like to think the Free State Foundation’s regular fare of work may be on any given day – and I don’t want to minimize its importance – I am never under any illusions about this: It is far, far more important that our citizens share a common appreciation of the true meaning of Memorial Day than of, say, the ins and outs of “net neutrality.”

The true meaning of Memorial Day is simple to declare – to honor those men and women in our armed services who paid the ultimate price defending our country and protecting our freedom. There are only so many ways to express this simple injunction. But Lincoln’s words, delivered at Gettysburg on hallowed ground, if not on the first Consecration (Memorial) Day, are difficult to improve upon as a remembrance of the fallen:

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that 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.”

This much we should “highly resolve” each Memorial Day.

In my Memorial Day 2009 message, I recounted an early morning stroll on the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey, on Memorial Day 2008. I was startled when Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." began blaring over a loudspeaker. And then I saw our flag rising on a boardwalk pole.

All the early morning “board-walkers and “beach-walkers,” stroller-pushers, bicyclists, and vendors came to an abrupt halt as they became aware of the flag-raising. Some put their hands over their hearts. Other simply stood still. Old men who once had been soldiers and young boys who one day would be. Grandmothers, mothers, mothers-to-be, and daughters.

As the flag unfurled and Lee Greenwood’s voice was carried by the summer morning breeze, nobody moved.

In fact, no one moved until "God Bless the U.S.A." ended.

I understand that the flag-raising in Ocean City that Memorial Day was not unique. Indeed, the scene was being reenacted all over America. Nevertheless, Lee Greenwood's anthem, also known as "Proud to Be an American," was especially poignant that morning when the boardwalk stood still.

You can listen to the song here, but this is part of the refrain:

"And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me…"

As we enjoy our beach outings or backyard barbeques – or maybe both! – this Memorial Day weekend, let’s be sure to pause to remember all those brave men and women who, as Lincoln put it, “gave the last full measure of devotion” to preserve the freedom we enjoy. And to remember and be grateful to those who are risking their lives to protect us even as we celebrate.

There will be time enough to debate the differences that divide us come Tuesday. Now is the time to focus on what, without doubt, should unite us – reverence and respect for those who paid the ultimate price so that we can still live in a land “Where at least I know I’m free.”

Very best wishes for a safe, happy, and meaningful Memorial Day!

PS – My past Memorial Day messages are here: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

PPS – Please remember also the victims of the horrific, evil terrorist attack in Manchester and their relatives. This Memorial Day Weekend, and always, if you “see something, say something.”