This past Monday our nation celebrated MEMORIAL DAY.
- It is observed in many different ways.
- It is a day to reflect, to remember those who sacrificed.
- So that we may celebrate the privileges they have provided for us with gatherings of neighbors, friends and families.
The history of this day was started on May 30, 1868.
- It was called Decoration Day and originally set aside to remember those who died during the Civil War.
- The name and the date remained the same through the years until 1966 when it was renamed Memorial Day and moved to the fourth Monday of May.
For several years we lived near our Nation’s Capitol.
- Many times we visited the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.
- All of these places move the heart; speak of those who have gone on before and gave to us a challenge, a spirit of thankfulness.
THESE PLACES OF HONOR ALL HAVE A STORY TO TELL.
- I have read the names on the wall, walked up and down the black granite and touched those names.
- I have see the incredibly beautiful statue of three brothers from different ethnic groups, arms entwined helping each other through battle.
- I have seen the rows upon rows of thousands of crosses at Arlington National Cemetery; all in a straight line in any direction you choose to look.
- I have visited the tomb of the Unknowns and watched the respectful changing of the guard many times.
- I have been to Valley Forge, the scene of suffering and sometimes desperation of those who fought to establish a new nation of individual freedom and respect.
- I remember an uncle who never really recovered from “shell shock” after World War II.
- I am in awe of the men, women and their families who gave themselves for our country.
We love the hearts of the young men and women who continue to serve today.
- Our family has a thankful sense of pride for a nephew, now retired, who had deployments both to Iraq and Afghanistan.
- And…for two grandsons who are now in the Military.
- One in the Marines and one in the Navy.
One of the most powerful places to visit in this country is Gettysburg National Battlefield and Cemetery.
- There is an overwhelming sense of history and dedication at Gettysburg.
- An individual cannot help but be moved by the aura which permeates the area.
- You cannot go there, follow the three day development of the battle, feel it’s atmosphere and not be moved.
On November 19, 1863; Abraham Lincoln rode through the battlefield on horseback to the official dedication of the new National Cemetery there.
- His brief but heartfelt speech still echos down to today.
- As I reread it, I was challenged, especially by the end.
- May these words become fresh in our hearts today:
“ It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” To some these days are times of confusion.
- Much has happened to our Nation in a few short years.
- We must remember our heritage, our foundation, those who have given everything so that we may have security and prosper.
- Many still have a desire to serve.
- They have a sense of honor, dedication and a willingness to be of benefit to others.
On May 16th, one of those young men gave the commencement address at the University of New Hampshire: Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sargent, Ryan Pitts. In front of graduates and their families, he talked about his past. “I understand that this is a celebration, but I felt the best advice I can offer you comes from the most challenging, tragic day of my life.” He described July 13, 2008, the day he fought off attackers during the war in Afghanistan. “I had taken grenade shrapnel to my left heel and calf, my entire right leg — hip to foot, left arm and forehead.” Despite his injuries, Pitts continued to fight and guided air strikes that helped ward off the attack. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions that day, a day he lost nine members of his platoon. “I crawled around and it was at that time I discovered I was the only man left alive at the position. My brothers did not abandon me. They saw their duties through to the very end.” Pitts said it was the most terrifying moment of his life, but as he looks back now, he knows he learned so much from his fellow soldiers who risked their lives. “Be courageous and appreciate courage in others who take action in the face of fear. Courage cannot exist without fear, and fear is everywhere in life — fear of failure, loss, rejection. The key is to deny fear’s purpose, which is to hold us back.” He also encouraged graduates to celebrate even the smallest steps they take in life. “You must pay attention and appreciate these sometimes seemingly insignificant accomplishments. Treasure the fact that you have just exceeded your horizon. Search for the next one and never back down.” ** Words for us to etch in our minds as we go forward in this journey called LIFE.
- Words lived out by those to whom we owe dignity, respect and lives that strive to reach their full potential.
- Not just once a year on Memorial day, but frequently pause and remember those to whom we owe so much.
LEST WE FORGET !
“And I’m proud to be an American,
Where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.”
(– Lee Greenwood)
** WMUR News, Channel 9, New Hampshire