In many places, Memorial Day means a trip to the lake, discounts at major retailers, or a 500 mile car race. To families who have lost loved ones that were members of our armed forces, the day means something much, much deeper. It means something deeper to us all, whether we realize it or not.
Since the day great leaders had a vision of a nation based upon the value of the individual, endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we’ve learned this truth…freedom is not a perpetual entitlement. Every generation of Americans has been called upon to purchase freedom for the next. On Veterans Day we honor those who paid the price to be free with commitment. On Memorial Day, we honor those who paid the price to be free…with sacrifice.
President Lincoln reminded us that a nation that does not honor its heroes, living or dead, will not long endure. Making time for somber reflection to honor our heroes is not only right, it’s also a necessary part of forging our own resolve to stand firm when our freedom is challenged by a nation or individuals who would make us prisoners bound in the shackles of fear.
In our moment of reflection, there’s a message our fallen heroes would tell us if we could still hear their voices. They would say “don’t mourn my death…celebrate my life and all my sacrifice stands for…I only ask that you remember.” We are free today because ordinary people responded to extraordinary circumstances as heroes and chose to fight on, even at the price of giving the last full measure of devotion.
Let us resolve today to make their legacy our obligation, because no nation or people is any freer than it is willing and able to make itself. May we always guard and exercise our freedom in a way that reflects gratitude for the high price paid to bestow it, and that we will as President Kennedy said “bear any burden, pay any price” to ensure mankind’s last best hope for freedom does not perish from the Earth.