Today marks Memorial Day, a national observance first known as Decoration Day. The first Memorial Day was observed on May 30, 1868. Flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Initially meant as a time to remember those who fell during the bloody battles of our brutal Civil War, the holiday’s significance has been extended to honor all those who paid the ultimate price for our nation. As they have done every year since 1948, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment will place flags at more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They will remain at Arlington National Cemetery throughout the holiday weekend making sure that the flags remain upright.
Gary Bauer’s comment on Memorial Day is, to me, particularly poignant, and I thought you’d be as blessed by it as I was:
Of all the dangers facing our country, perhaps the greatest is the one that doesn’t make many headlines — our collective national amnesia. According to the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 18% of 8th grade students were proficient in U.S. history.
Our history textbooks are sanitized to be politically correct and give our children little sense of the greatness of the nation they live in. The Founders are seldom mentioned unless it is part of a controversy about slavery or some other scandal.
I am often struck by how often decent American kids have nothing good to say about their own country. Their knowledge of the sacrifices made to establish and preserve their freedom is virtually non-existent. They are the recipients of the greatest freedom and opportunity that any society has ever produced, yet they are unaware of the price that was paid for it.
At my father’s table, I learned love of country in a way that only a Marine could teach it. Dad taught me that patriotism wasn’t a theory — it was flesh and blood, real sacrifice and pain.
You are your children’s most important teacher. They are listening.
Tell your children about the sacrifices that had to be made to stop the march of fascism and the cancer of communism. Tell them about the beaches of Normandy and the Bataan Death March. Tell them about why there was a Berlin Wall and how free men brought it down.
Remind them about 9/11, what happened at the Pentagon and over the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Teach them to love the things we love and honor the things we honor.
While Memorial Day is dedicated to those in uniform who died defending us, let’s not forget those in uniform who protect us here at home.
I’d like to leave you with a few excerpts from Ronald Reagan’s 1982 Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery. While the adversary Reagan spoke of was Soviet communism, his words apply to radical Islam today.
In America’s cities and towns today, flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries; public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor. . . .
Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we — in a less final, less heroic way — be willing to give of ourselves. . . .
It’s not just strength or courage that we need, but understanding and a measure of wisdom as well. We must understand enough about our world to see the value of our alliances. We must be wise enough about ourselves to listen to our allies, to work with them, to build and strengthen the bonds between us.
Our understanding must also extend to potential adversaries. . . . we must never fail to note, as frequently as necessary, the wide gulf between our codes of morality. . . .Nor must we ever underestimate the seriousness of their aspirations to global expansion. The risk is the very freedom that has been so dearly won. . . .
Winston Churchill said of those he knew in World War II they seemed to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, ‘just the best darn kids in the world.’ Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life.
Well, they didn’t volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. . . .
I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask.
Have a blessed Memorial Day, everyone.