By Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
They shall not grow old,
As we that are left, grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning,
We shall remember them.
~ Robert Laurence Binyon
Since the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, April 19, 1775, to the present occupation in Afghanistan, more than a million and a half men and women have died in combat. That number does not include the nearly 40,000 servicemen and women missing in action. Over a million and a half sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends… who defended more than just an ideal.
Today is not about our own personal beliefs on war or politics, or whether we are a “hawk” or “dove”, whether we believe that we should have entered into conflict with Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan… or not. Today is not a day to debate the ‘rightness’ of war, American politics, or America’s presence around the globe… superpower or ‘bully’. There are enough other days on the calendar for such debates.
Today we honor our dead. Today is about the men and women who did what they were called to do… who had the courage to sacrifice all… and who paid the ultimate price.
Today is a day to remember and honor those brave souls. It is a day to set aside our own differences, and memorialize the honor, duty, and sacrifice of these men and women.
I find a sad irony in the word “freedom”. Freedom means “to be free”, yet freedom is not “free”. A price is always paid, often; a horrible price. The cost of freedom for all is the sacrifice of life for many. That is a terrible, crushing truth. I am unbearably saddened by the knowledge that this truth is something that we, mankind, must be constantly reminded of, because – another terrible truth – there will always be evil in the world.
Wherever there is evil in men’s hearts, tyranny will breed. Wherever there is tyranny, there will be cries for freedom. And wherever there are cries for freedom, selfless men and women will rise up and answer those cries. Many will make the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, so that you and I and others may live and be free. Free to live our lives as we want; free to be whoever or whatever we want to be; free to breathe and speak our own minds; free to laugh… to love… to live! And… free to rise up with others and fight oppression and tyranny wherever it exists in the world… because until all are free, none are truly free.
As we commemorate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, so that you and I may live our lives as free men and women, I sincerely hope we will all spend a few moments in silence and remember the sacrifices of so many this Memorial Day, and maybe say a little prayer of thanks, if you are so inclined. Those who sacrificed so that I am free to be the person who I am will always be in my prayers. I also pray for the day when man will no longer take up arms against man.
“The rest of those who have gone before us…cannot steady the unrest of those who follow.” ~ Unknown
© 2013 – Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw. All Rights Reserved.
May be reprinted with permission of the author.