On this holiday weekend, as a country, we observe Memorial Day Day – which was first known as Decoration Day. It was meant to be a time to remember and honor our Civil War dead simply by decorating their graves. Over time, the holiday’s significance extended to remember and honor all those are serving and have served our great nation in the armed services. Now, as America is at war, Memorial Day also provides an opportunity for us to reflect on and give thanks for the sacrifices of our soldiers still in harm’s way. In particular, it gives me an opportunity to remember my dad.
According to Gary Bauer, “We face many dangers today – terrorist attacks, Iranian belligerence, international health epidemics. But the greatest danger of all is the one that still doesn’t make many headlines – our collective national amnesia.
“Our history textbooks are sanitized to be politically correct and give our children virtually no sense of the greatness of the nation they live in.
Speaking of his presidential campaign Gary writes, “In my talks at hundreds of high schools during the 2000 campaign, I was struck by how often decent American kids had nothing good to say about their country.”
He goes on to say, “Most had virtually no knowledge of the sacrifices made to establish and preserve their liberty. They are the recipients of the greatest freedom and opportunity that any society has ever produced; yet they are unaware of the price in flesh and blood that was paid for it.”
I wish they could have met my dad.
It wasn’t until after his death, in 2003, that my brothers and I learned of our father’s bravery and courage in World War II.
Philip B. “Larry” Larimore, Jr., fought in Italy, France, and Germany, before losing his leg – and almost his life, just a week or so before the end of the war.
Awarded three Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, two Silver Stars, and the Distinguished Service Cross, he ended his service to our country as the Executive Officer for the Honor Garrison at Arlington Cemetery and Ft. Myers (the Old Guard).
You can read more about my dad’s military record here.
I remember the admiration my dad had for President Ronald Reagan and how much my dad appreciated a speech the President delivered at Pointe du Hoc, France, where U.S. Rangers fought an incredible battle to reclaim Europe from the evil of fascism.
He found President Reagan’s remarks a reminder of who we are, what matters most, and of the America we must rediscover if we are going to prevail in the fight against the new fascism of militant Islam:
Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here.
You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you.
Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here?
We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.
The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next.
It was the deep knowledge – and pray God we have not lost it – that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.
You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause.
And you were right not to doubt.
You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.
All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.
The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home.
They thought – or felt in their hearts, though they couldn’t know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4 a.m., in Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.
Something else helped the men of D-Day: their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause.
And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we’re about to do.
Also that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”
Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead.
Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for.
Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”
Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.
In America today, Memorial Day weekend has become more of an occasion for rest and relaxation than for reflection about our heroes and the values they died to preserve.
This weekend, I hope and pray that we can learn to do both – relax and remember. Let’s go the ballgame, have that picnic, hug our kids, and have some fun at the beach.
But let’s also remind ourselves, and our children, about what happened at Concord Bridge; the fields of Antietam; at the beaches of Normandy.
Let’s explain to them why there was a Berlin Wall, what happened at Okinawa and the price that was paid to stop Hitler.
Because the same resolve that allowed us to persevere in those conflicts will be necessary if we are to overcome our current challenges.
In short, let’s take at least a moment to teach our children and grandchildren to love the things we love, and honor the things we honor.
Finally, let’s remind ourselves as well as our children that all liberty is a gift from God and that each generation has paid in flesh and blood to preserve it.
For those of you who want a place to start, try reading to your kids and grandkids these words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.
The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.