Reflections on Memorial Day

The Washington Times editorial today addresses “Memorial Day.” The editorial asks, “What tribute can we possibly pay to those among us who gave — and who are still giving — so much for the cause of liberty? How do we properly memorialize them today?…Yet, Memorial Day is more than giving to the living. It is also remembering the dead — who they were, where they fell and why they fought. How do we remember them today?” The editorial presents a comprehensive set of suggestions for our observation of the holiday.
Among the remembrances the editorial asks us to make today, the editorial includes “the courage of the civilians who fought as the finest American soldiers when so suddenly summoned to duty on September 11. Remembering Jeremy Glick, Louis Nacke and the rest of the heroes of Flight 93. Remembering Rick Rescorla, a hero of Vietnam who successfully evacuated each of the 2,700 Morgan Stanley employees under his charge at the south tower of the World Trade Center and died in the tower collapse while looking for stragglers. Remembering Barbara Olson, who fought back with the only weapon she had — a cell phone — until American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Remembering Robert Evans, Thomas DeAngelis, Frank Palombo, Raymond York and the rest of the 343 firefighters who rushed into the fight and fell into the night, in the ruin of the World Trade Center.”
The honor we seek to accord to the fallen has special meaning to us as Americans because we believe so deeply that their deaths had meaning in light of the principles they died defending. The editorial therefore concludes by asking us to observe the holiday by “promis[ing] to never forget our founding principles…” and by “promis[ing] to renew our devotion” to them. “Memorial Day begins each day that Americans honor their soldiers, remember their heroes and pledge allegiance to their ideals. Memorial Day begins today.”
The original proclamation of a Memorial Day in 1868 was of course occasioned by the Civil War. Our hero Abraham Lincoln was essentially the last to be killed in that conflict, five days after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. Perhaps we should take a moment today to meditate on his sacrifice as well as to read his own reflections on the meaning of the Civil War in his Second Inaugural Address. There Lincoln concluded with his prayerful resolution: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

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