Memorial Day puts us in touch with our patriotism, our pride and our understanding of who we are and how we came to be a nation.
Memorial Day impels us to remember the costs of bringing America this far and forces us to admit the price is not yet paid in full. This is what Memorial Day symbolizes – a time Americans take a clear look at both our past and future. We acknowledge the debt we owe to those men and women who — because they so cherished peace — chose to live as warriors.
Could anything be more contradictory than the lives of our soldiers? They love America, so they spend long years in foreign lands far from home. They cherish freedom, so they sacrifice their own that we may be free. They defend our right to live as individuals yet give up their individuality in that cause. They value life, and so bravely ready themselves to die in the service of our country.
For more than 200 years our world has changed, and our armed forces have changed with it, but the valor, dignity, and courage of the men and women in uniform remain the same. From Valley Forge to Desert Storm, and into current day war, the fighting spirit of the American soldier fills the history of our nation.
But why are we so seemingly willing to fight and, if need be, to die? The answer to that question is as simple – and yet as complex – as the soul of America itself. We fight because we believe. Not that ware is good, but that sometimes it is necessary. Our soldiers fight and die not for the glory of war, but for the prize of freedom.
So, we choose to remember the past because the payment for forgetfulness is dear – sacrifice, service, duty … and many times, injury and death paid by gallant, heroic men and women.
But, what of the soldiers whose life blood has bought the liberty of our nation? They are all different yet share a sameness that is deeper than the uniform they wear. They are black, white, man, woman, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Muslim, and a hundred other variations and combinations. What is most important – regardless of race, creed, color or gender – they are American.
During World War Two, when the nurses on Corregidor stayed to tend the wounded, they knew that facing them was inevitable hardship and possible death. They never faltered. No one, from General MacArthur down, questioned their right to stay behind. They were soldiers; that was the mission. At the end of the war, they were freed from the prison camps. They were warriors and heroes. They were also women.
These courageous men and women, each so different in heritage and background, shared the common bonds of the armed forces – duty and sacrifice. All of them reached a moment in their lives when race and religion, creed and color made no difference. What remained was the essence of America – the fighting spirit of a proud, valorous people. They are soldiers who paid the price for freedom.
As we remember these brave warriors and their comrades in arms on this Memorial Day, we must look to the future as well as the past. In today’s world, freedom comes cloaked in uncertainty. America still relies on her sons and daughters to defend her liberty. The cost of independence remains high, but we are willing to pay it. We do not pay it gladly, but we pay it with deep pride and thanks to those who have sacrificed their lives for America. We know that in the years to come, more brave souls will sacrifice their lives for America. We include them in our thoughts and prayers today.
(Used with permission from the Army Public Affairs)
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