Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

When the weather is warm and the sun bright, we all love three-day holiday weekends that are marked by the tastes of cold beer and grill-burnt hot dogs. Memorial Day, the fourth Monday of every May, is know for producing such weekends and is often thought of as the unofficial start of summer.

However, we should always remember the reason we don't have to go into the office today, for it is a sacred reason that has nothing to do with beer and franks. With that in mind, it is worth reflecting on these words that were spoken at Arlington National Cemetery 30 years ago:

It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives -- the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember...

There is always someone who is remembering for us. No matter what time of year it is or what time of day, there are always people who come to this cemetery, leave a flag or a flower or a little rock on a headstone. And they stop and bow their heads and communicate what they wished to communicate...It's not so hard to summon memory, but it's hard to recapture meaning...

We're surrounded today by the dead of our wars. We owe them a debt we can never repay. All we can do is remember them and what they did and why they had to be brave for us. All we can do is try to see that other young men never have to join them. Today, as never before, we must pledge to remember the things that will continue the peace. Today, as never before, we must pray for God's help in broadening and deepening the peace we enjoy. Let us pray for freedom and justice and a more stable world. And let us make a compact today with the dead, a promise in the words for which General Ridgeway listened, "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."

In memory of those who gave the last full measure of devotion, may our efforts to achieve lasting peace gain strength.

  Ronald Reagan, 1985