When you're a kid, Memorial Day really doesn't mean much. It's a day off from school, or sales at the mall. Just another holiday, like Columbus Day or some other day that just doesn't quite hold any meaning for you.
My father was in the Marine Corps for 22 years, and when he retired to Coeur d'Alene, he joined the Marine Corps League there. And I think that's when Memorial Day actually started to have meaning for me. The Marine Corps League does a lot of things around the community; they do the Toys for Tots donation drive every Christmas, they act as honor guard for military ceremony, they march in parades...
And they place flags on the graves of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.
I don't know how old I was at the time, probably ten or eleven years old, and I remember asking my dad why there were flags all over the cemetary. His response was "Those are the graves of men who died for their country." Me, being the ever inquisitive kid, asked "Well, why did they have to die?"
That's when dad took me aside, and explained it as well as he could. Some of those men died so that I could grow up in a country that didn't kill me because I wasn't blond-haired and blue-eyed. Some of those men died so that people with different skin color could live and work and play just like the rest of us. Some of those men died trying to stop the spread of a cancerous ideology that used people up and then spit them out as lifeless husks, with no care for individuality or humanity.
Those men died so that I could sit here and type this, without fear of reprisal.
Some of those graves were old. REALLY old. Coeur d'Alene grew up around an old army fort, Ft. Sherman. The old fort site is now the campus of North Idaho College, but the graves of men who were buried from that fort are still there, worn and faded. They died making this country what it is today. Without those men, I wouldn't be sitting in this spot, or kissing my girlfriend on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. I wouldn't be riding my motorcycle on the Old Pacific Highway, or digging for clams in the Puget Sound. Chances are, without those men I wouldn't exist. Without those men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, James E. would never have moved to Long Beach California, never would have gotten married, never would have fathered little Jim, and little Jim would have never grown up to have a son of his own. Because without those men, who paid the highest price possible, James would have never gotten the chance to live, or to move to California. None of it would have ever happened.
Without those men who lay in their graves, the entire world would be different. How many of those graves are filled with men who died not just for their country, but for the freedom of another country halfway around the world? How many men died because they recognised a terrible evil, and could not stand to see it spread?
This is our chance to honor those men. And I'm going to follow Jim's advice on this weekend. There will be no ranting and raving this weekend, no partisan potshots. If I see something that makes me boil, it can wait until after Memorial Day. If you haven't read Jim's post, take a gander -
The men and women in those graves are no longer Democrats or Republicans. They are still and eternally though Americans, and are forevermore worthy of this day given but to them.
Honor the Day. Honor Them.
From their dark and silent graves, they give more honor to our Nation than any one politican, party or officeholder dares ever imagine.
Dignified beyond words, with noblility above the highest offices of government, these silent warriors speak loudly of what it is to be American.
They did not die for the Republicans. Nor for the Democrats, Greens or Libertarians.
Whether in combat, or fifty years later surrounded by only the memories of comrades long since passed, the men and women resting forever under those flags once marched proudly under that banner. They have earned nothing less than the unqualified respect of a grateful Nation, and her grateful people.
The last full measure of devotion is an awesome, terrible thing. Yet, magnificent; and it is upon the altar of their sacrafice that we enjoy the freedom of the greatest Nation in the history of the world.
Stand and salute, and remember them.
I don't think I can add anything to that.