Tomorrow our nation will celebrate Memorial Day. For many, Memorial Day weekend is a time to mark the end of school and the beginning of summer. Time, finally, to sleep in.
But this weekend marks more that just a transition of seasons. Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor all those who have died in American wars, a total that the Department of Veterans Affairs puts at more than 1.1 million, Our nation’s practice of honoring our war dead started after the Civil War. After World War I, all soldiers who had died in all American wars were recognized.
The practice is centuries old. Pericles, the Athenian leader, noted “Not only are they commemorated by column and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.” This tribute was given to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War more than four centuries before Christ was born.
All those who serve in the military are prepared to give their lives for our country. They are the armor and the heart of our nation. We should honor them not only through memorials, flags at half-staff, parades and ceremonies, but by remembering the purpose of their sacrifice, to protect and defend our freedom.
My grandfather was a career army officer who served in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. He never spoke to me about serving in combat, but I knew he was a soldier and protected our country, and me. As is the case with most soldiers, he was posted throughout the world during his army career.