Memorial Day, 2007

Memorial Day always seems so much more poignant when we have our soldiers in harm’s way as we have these last several years in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world. As we set our minds to remember the sacrifices of past American soldiers we must also think of those who now serve in this perilous time.

The one thing that ties them all together, living and passed, is the righteousness of their service. One of our most famous Naval Heroes was Stephen Decatur, hero of the War of 1812 and a man who defeated the Barbary Pirates. It was Decatur who raised his glass to his country with the toast, “Our country right or wrong”. Decatur’s words have echoed from his time to ours among our soldiers, those words making a clarion call to the duty and the honor with which our soldiers view their service.

We have also had other days when the reasons our soldiers face a dangerous foe are controversial among the citizens of this great country. Every war has its detractors at home and the conflicts in which we are involved today are no different in that respect.

Fully one third of the American colonists didn’t agree with separation from England and the internecine fighting between North and South was only one aspect of the civil war as thousands of Southerners never supported the Confederacy and thousands of Northerners disagreed with Lincoln’s decision to fight to keep the Union whole. During WWI some of our most famous Americans, such as carmaker Henry Ford, opposed the American entrance in the Great War and WWII was no different with the internal fight over our participation against the Nazis. And we don’t even have to mention Vietnam as our media today so constantly wishes to remind us as we try to defeat Islamist terror across the world.

But, all that internal strife, all the doubts that contemporary citizens exhibit amongst themselves as our government moves toward conflict has never had any bearing on the loyalty and sacrifice our soldiers willingly give to our great nation. And, no matter if you agree with the direction of any particular measure of war, it is that sacrifice we honor with the Memorial Day observance.

On this day of remembrance, we must not allow our thoughts about policy obscure the honor we pay our troops. This day is theirs and we should solemnly regard their service for the selfless effort it truly is.

Today, we have young soldiers (and some not so young) helping build schools so children of another culture might find an education for the first time in their lives. We have medical personnel healing the sick, poor and indigent. We have troops bringing food to the hungry and clothes to those made destitute by war. And we have soldiers to often, but inevitably giving that last full measure in pursuit of those noble goals.

That is right now, today. Memorial Day is not just a day to have a cook out and to otherwise go about your business and we must take, even if just for a moment, some time from our day to honor their service.

But not just for the living should we take this time but for those long passed from our earth. Those who gave their last breath to fight the British for our independence, those who fought to free a people, and those who fought to stamp out tyranny, all who have fallen with the colors of our country going before them.

They fell for their country wrong or right. We must honor them for it, assuring that their sacrifice was neither in vain nor forgotten.

Thank you to our armed forces personnel from today and yesterday, may God bless your duty honorably met.

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